I was trained and received my doctorate in the area of phycology which is the study of algae. I have used these fantastic organisms to study the structure and function of the Golgi apparatus as well as the great genetic diversity of cellulose biosynthesis. I have also been one of the major investigators of the ecological distribution of algae in the atmosphere where I have studied "airborne algae". Earlier, with John P. McGovern, we discovered that many airborne algae cause human inhalant allergies! Much more work needs to be done in this area and I am open for undergraduate involvement in all of the above as well.
I was one of the first researchers to investigate the DNA viruses of algae. Recently, I have renewed my interest in the photosynthetic prokaryotic algae known as "cyanobacteria" or more commonly as "blue green algae". These are the oldest oxygen evolving microbes on earth having been here some 2 billion years, and the cyanobacteria also produce cellulose! Through mining of genomes, we found that the cellulose synthase genes of land plants and most eukaryotic algae came from the cyanobacteria through a lateral gene transfer event.
We are now focusing many of our research efforts on using cyanobacteria grown in raceway ponds to produce and secrete sucrose or simple sugar. The sugar will be used as a feedstock to microbes such as yeasts and bacteria that produce products such as ethanol, butanol, and hydrocarbons which can substitute for gasoline and other biofuels. Cyanobacteria offer a great promise to become one of the critical "spokes in the wheel" of approaches in sustainable energy. Our work with cyanobacteria involves collection of new strains, culture and physiological adaptation to various media, growth in specialized fermentors, including scaleup to outdoor ponds at the Brackenridge Field Lab, and ultimately to prototype scaleups in Texas for the massive production of feedstocks as well as biomass for numerous applications.
I invite you to visit our lab to learn more about what we are doing. Visit my website also: www.botany.utexas.edu. Email me if you have questions or would like to become involved in an undergraduate research project (email@example.com).
Affiliated Research Units
International Research: Regions of Academic Interest
International Information: Countries of Academic Interest
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