EDGE: Educating and Developing Workers for the Green Economy

Our Growing Biofuels/Industrial Biotechnology Industry


A 2014 analysis, conducted by the San Diego County of Governments’ (SANDAG) economic bureau, reports that for the algae sector alone, the industry currently provides the San Diego region with:

  • 505 direct jobs
  • $103 million in direct economic activity and
  • $175 million in total economic activity annually.

With increasing pressure on fossil fuels and the ability to use algae to create a wide range of photosynthetic-based bio-products, the algae biotechnology sector is set to grow at an impressive pace. Already, direct employment in the algae biotechnology industry in the San Diego region has nearly doubled since 2009. The EDGE Initiative was developed with funding from the California Department of Labor to develop and provide training programs to anticipate the growth of the biofuels and industrial biotechnology sectors.

Applications for 2017 are open

Applications are now open for the EDGE Algae Biotechnology Science Certificate and Biofuels Processes Specialized Certificate.
LAUNCH applications for the Spring 2017 Program are due March 15, 2017.


EDGE Algae Biotechnology Science Certificate

Based on the Biofuels Science Technician Certificate offered through the CA Department of Labor funded Educating and Developing workers for the Green Economy (EDGE) grant, Cal-CAB and UCSD Extension had developed two specialized certificates in Biofuels: the Biofuels Science Certificate and the Biofuels Processes Specialized Certificate (a full program schedule can be viewed here). However, in recent years, there has been a considerable shift away from the perception of biofuel production as the largest economic opportunity for algae biotechnology, largely due to significant fluctuations in price of energy commodities. The algae industry is rapidly adjusting to these market realities and while interest and funding in biofuels produced using algae biotechnologies continues, it is at a lower level, with interest in the production of higher-value algae-based products taking off.

Recognizing these necessary changes for the algae industry, Cal-CAB has subjected the EDGE program to a review process with its instructors and industrial advisory committee. As a result, Cal-CAB is renaming and redeveloping its Biofuels Science Certificate as the Algae Biotechnology Science Certificate for 2016. Courses will be redeveloped to concentrate on algae as a feedstock for a wide range of bioproducts in addition to biofuels. New courses, including a 3-day Introduction to Algae Biotechnology intensive course, will be launched starting in March 2016.

The Algae Biotechnology Science Certificate is hybrid program with lecture courses completed online, followed by intensive laboratory courses completed at the UCSD campus over 4 weeks during summer. It is aimed at training professionals for field and laboratory roles in the algae biotechnology and biomass production industry, including analytical chemistry, microbiological/crop management, and biological/biofuels lab techniques. It provides students hands-on technical knowledge and experience in laboratory techniques used in biomanufacturing processes, analysis and quality controls. The certificate consists of three core courses and two tracks of study: 1) Molecular Biology; and 2) Analytical Chemist. The Molecular Biology track focuses on molecular biological techniques with an emphasis on molecular engineering for the improvement of algae for biofuel/bioproduct production, and will also cover aquatic microbiology including; growth, physiology, and identification and crop protection of both eukaryotic and prokaryotic algal production species, and examines the basic pathogenic microorganisms of algal production. The courses offered for this track are Genetics and Physiology of Photosynthetic Microorganisms and Photosynthetic Microorganisms Molecular Biology Laboratory. The Analytical Chemistry track focuses on chemical analysis of biomolecules, including proteins and small molecules like fatty acids and isoprenoids, downstream processing of precursors into final products, specifications and methods required to maintain quality in manufacturing, and hands-on experience in the analytical methods used to characterize bioproducts. The courses offered for this track are Chemistry and Biochemistry of Renewable Fuels and Chemicals and Analytical Chemistry Laboratory. A full program schedule can be viewed here.

For students not living in San Diego, a limited amount of discounted on-campus housing with dining plans are available for the summer lab courses. UCSD Extension can also assist foreign students with visa issues and discounted on-campus housing for the summer lab courses.

Further Information

For further information on these certificates, please visit the UCSD Extension website. If you have additional questions, please contact Angeline Yang avyang@ucsd.edu at UCSD Extension. For further information on the EDGE Initiative, please contact Wendy Groves wgroves@ucsd.edu  at Cal-CAB.

2017 Financial Assistance

There are a few different options available for financial assistance for these Certificate programs:

Scholarships: Scholarships are not currently available for the 2017 year.

UC San Diego Student Grant Program: Through a reciprocal arrangement with the University, UCSD Extension offers a limited number of student grants to full-time UCSD students. Each quarter, students can pick up a student grant voucher, good for up to $500 off of one course (students pay anything over that amount). Information on this program can be found on the UCSD Extension website.

LAUNCH Program: The LAUNCH program is designed for fulltime students who want to ensure their first step into the workplace puts them on the right path to career success. Each LAUNCH student works with a coach who acts as a mentor throughout the program, and should be done concurrently with university study, ideally during a student’s junior and senior years. Applications usually open in February and November each year. Applications for the Spring 2017 cycle are due March 15, 2017 at 2:00pm. Information about the application process can be found on the UCSD Extension website.

Other Assistance: For additional financial assistance options, please visit the UCSD Extension website.


In 2010, the Educating and Developing workers for the Green Economy (EDGE) Initiative was formed as a public-private partnership that included: San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, UCSD, CleanTECH San Diego, BIOCOM, the BIOCOM Institute, San Diego Regional EDC, Imperial Valley EDC, San Diego Workforce Partnership, UCSD Extension, San Diego State University, and MiraCosta College. With a Green Innovation Challenge grant from the California Department of Labor from 2010-2012, EDGE developed and provided free education, training and placement services in the growing biofuels/industrial biotechnology industry to unemployed and incumbent workers within San Diego and the Imperial Valley. Program curriculum was carefully constructed with input from industry partners to ensure that these sectors needs are met with highly skilled workers.

Programs created included:

Biofuels Science Technician Certificate: Tracks - Biological/Biofuels Lab Technician, Microbiological/Crop Management, Biofuels Analytical Chemist at UCSD Extension providing hands-on technical knowledge and experience in biofuels production, analysis and processing required to excel in a management-level biofuels career.  This certificate has been revised for 2013 and later as the Biofuels Processes Certificate.

Biomass Production Training Certificate: Certificate at MiraCosta College providing a foundation in the technologies employed by biotechnology companies engaged in the production of microalgal biomass for biofuels and other applications for biomass production careers.

Industrial Biotech Immersion Program: Online certificate program developed by the BIOCOM Institute using industry driven curriculum to give individuals the business acumen and soft skills needed to successfully transition into industrial biotech careers.

Paid Internships: The EDGE Internship program provided opportunities to work in the rapidly emerging biofuels/industrial biotechnology industry. New internships are not available at this time.

Advanced Training in Biofuels Production Certificate (Masters of Advanced Studies): UCSD-based M.A.S., will prepare advanced degree holders to assume responsibility for important research in the growing biofuels industry. Development currently on hold.

EDGE Grant Outcomes

From thousands of letters of interest and roughly 500 applicants, we were able to not to only fully develop the above training programs, but we were also able to train over 300 participants.  Outcomes at the end of the grant period (as of 9/17/12) are listed below.

  All EDGE Training Programs Biofuels Science Technician Certificate
Participants 311 126
Certificates Earned 105 91
Participants now employed or accepted to graduate school as of September 17, 2012 110 40

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