Jillian Blatti, a researcher in the Burkart laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, happily pipettes algae as part of her daily routine. She has been working on manipulating algal metabolism, specifically fatty acid biosynthesis, aiding in efforts towards the widespread production of algal biodiesel as a renewable and sustainable transportation fuel. Mike Burkart and Jill Blatti are part of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology (SD-CAB), an organization created to unite academic research and private industry to support the development of innovative, sustainable, and commercially viable algae-based biotechnology solutions for renewable energy, green chemistry, bio-products, water conservation, and CO2 abatement.
The San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology was established in 2008 as a consortium of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute, the University of California, San Diego, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in partnership with private industry. Part of an overall vision of the Burkart Lab and SD-CAB is the mantra that spreading the word about biofuels is equally as important as is the research to optimize biofuel development. As such, a significant facet of its research focuses on biofuel outreach and education to increase local and national awareness of issues surrounding renewable energy, with an initial focus on local area high schools.
In one such project, in collaboration with Skip Pomeroy, a professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at UCSD, and an undergraduate group under the ellipsis BAAN, the ‘Biofuels Action and Awareness Network’, Jillian helps with outreach projects at high schools in the South Bay focused on renewable energy. Illustrated below, she stands before a group of sophomores at Castle Park High School at the finale of months of hard work. The students stand proudly behind their invention, their creation, and watch as their engineering efforts and dedication come to fruition. They have built a bioreactor from solvent cans, which will run from solar power, and they will use algae as the source of oil to convert to biodiesel.
As research into new forms of renewable energy expands, so does the educational role of researchers at SD-CAB. Through education and outreach projects, such as the one described above, we will continue to spread awareness about algal biofuels as an alternative transportation fuel, as well as other forms of alternative energy, and the vastly important role that each and every one of us holds in regards to energy conservation. Cooperation is the key to a sustainable future, and through SD-CAB, our goal is to make this a reality.