Our research interest is in the area of microalgal biology and biotechnology. The goal is to understand abiotic and biotic interactions of microalgae with the environment and the molecular mechanisms regulating lipid biosynthesis during those interactions. We employ rational engineering strategies to manipulate algae for carbon sequestration and production of biofuels/high-value products.
Click on the figure above for the lipid synthesis pathways in microalgae (Li et al, 2013, Handbook of Microalgal Culture, 2nd Edition. Chapter 28)
Lipid biosynthesis and turnover: We use the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and the marine oleaginous microalga Nannochloropsis oceanica as model systems. Our goal is to advance basic knowledge on photosynthetic carbon allocation and lipid metabolism in microalgae, particularly the molecular mechanisms regulating triacylglycerol synthesis and lipid body biogenesis (see the Figure above). We address these mechanisms using systems biology and molecular biology approaches.
Carbon sequestration and biofuels: The carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is increasing at an alarming rate, contributing to climate change that is causing damage to the world economy. We propose microalgae-based negative emission technology (strain engineering, microbiome engineering etc.) to sequester CO2 and remove it from atmosphere. Sequestered carbon will be used as energy source or building blocks for other biological material.
Engineering algae for high value bioproducts: The low biomass productivity obtained from native algal strains is a major challenge for algae-based products. To overcome this problem, we have developed new tools and strategies to engineer algal mutant strains with improved target products. We have also physiologically and genetically manipulated selected algal strains (Haematococcus and Chlorella; see the Figure above) for astaxanthin production, a high-value carotenoid widely used in aquaculture and nutraceutical industry. Promising algal strains are tested in advanced bioreactors/fermenters.
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