Our work is linked to the algae biotechnology sector and our goal is to develop algae and their derivatives into innovative green and clean technologies. We work collaboratively across research, government and industry sectors.
Algae are marine plants that are critical for the planet’s wellbeing: they produce half the oxygen we breathe and contribute to climate stability. In our research group, we work with macroalgae such as seaweed and kelp, and microalgae, which are microscopic marine plants.
Algae hold great promise for tackling the global need for sustainability, food security and energy security. They are a source of biomass for biofuels, chemicals, agriculture and aquaculture feedstocks, fertilisers, cosmetics, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.
We conduct interdisciplinary research and bring together knowledge and expertise in algal physiology, genetic and metabolic engineering, physics, chemistry and biochemistry to drive innovation in the following areas:
- Large, commercial-scale microalgal biomass cultivation in bioreactors
- Algal biomass harvesting and processing methods
- Genetically engineered, biotech-ready microalgal strains
- Algae-based biodegradable plastics
- Development and biomanufacture of therapeutics from algae under GMP Lite conditions
- Bioremediation systems for wastewater and solid waste treatment
- Roof top algae farms
- Living algae buildings
Deep Green Biotech Hub
We are the founding team for the NSW Deep Green Biotech Hub, supported by the NSW Department of Industry. During the 2018 Vivid Sydney festival of light, we installed our Living Lights installation, a 'forest' made entirely of living breathing algae, to raise awareness of a sustainable algae-based future. Living Lights was the first living installation at the festival.
In order to bring mass-scale algal cultivation closer to reality, it is crucial to understand how abiotic environmental parameters influence algal physiology. We use a matrix of environmental photo-bioreactors (ePBRs) to address key commercialisation roadblocks. The ePBRs are used to simulate environmental conditions, such as irradiance, temperature and carbon availability, at prospective large-scale algal facilities within a controlled laboratory setting. Algal physiological response is measured in terms of chlorophyll fluorescence, oxygen evolution and biomass productivity. Using this approach it is possible to:
- Assess algal biomass productivity with non-invasive optical technology,
- Investigate the synthesis of various bio-products,
- Optimise algal growth conditions,
- Select the appropriate algal species for a specific environment, and
- Anticipate and overcome obstacles to algal growth, such as photo-inhibitive irradiance levels or carbon limitation.
We are actively looking to explore opportunities for engagement with industrial and academic partners.
Watch: Diatoms in the Data Arena with Dr Raffaela Abbriano Burke
Peter Ralph - Group Leader | C3 Executive Director | aquatic photosynthesis; photobiology; bio-optics; algae-biofactories
Justin Ashworth | Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow | marine microeukaryotes [diatoms], microbial systems biology and gene regulation, molecular function and evolution, bioengineering, synthetic biology
Raffaela Abbriano Burke | Research Associate | Biology, Marine Biology, Marine Biology
Audrey Commault | Research Associate | biotechnology; molecular biology; biochemistry; electrochemistry
Michele Fabris | Postdoctoral Research Associate | molecular biology
Jim Franklin | Visiting Fellow | optics
Chris Hall | Research Associate | Biochemistry and Genetics, Plant Biology
Tim Kalkhe | Research Associate | Bioinformatics and computational biology
Manoj Kumar | DECRA Fellow | Agriculture, Plant Biochemistry, Marine Biotechnology
Unnikrishnan Kuzhiumparambil| Postdoctoral Research Associate | analytical chemistry
Leen Labeeuw | Research Associate | Biochemical engineering, environmental technology, biology
Tony Larkum | Emeritus Professor | plant physiology; algal photosynthesis; light-harvesting proteins; photosynthetic efficiency
Janice McCauley | Research Fellow I molecular biology; bioavailability; bioassays; novel foods and pharmaceuticals
Mathieu Pernice | Postdoctoral Research Associate | symbiosis; molecular physiology; genomics; genetic engineering of microalgae
David Suggett | ARC Future Fellow | active fluorescence; photosynthesis; alternative electron sinks; nutrient limitation; reactive oxygen
Alonzo Zavaleta | Research Associate | Biostatistics (Biology), Biophysics - Photobiology (Plant Sciences)
Jack Adriaans | PhD Student | Microbial Bioremediation and Biotransformation of phenolic compounds in Industrial Effluent
Rachel Alderdice | PhD Student | Revealing the mechanistic basis for coral hypoxia sensitivity versus tolerance via coupled transcriptomics-metabolomics platforms.
Harvey Bates | PhD Student | The Energetics of photosynthesis to understand stress response of microalgae
Ana Cristina Jaramillo Madrid | PhD Student | Potential of sterol metabolism of marine diatoms for production of valuable compounds
Fateme Mirakhorli | PhD Student | Integrated Microfluidic Systems for Algal Research
Julian Kofler | PhD Student | Design of a scalable single-use photobioreactor for axenic cultures of microalgae
Sean Macdonald-Miller | PhD Student | Exploring the genetic basis for increased pigment biosynthesis in the marine diatoms Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Thalassiosira pseudonanna
Amelia Pezzano | PhD Student | Algae as a New, Alternative Source of Cellulose Fibres for use in Textiles
Shawn Price | PhD Student | Developing Next Generation Algal Bioplastic Technology
Kanoknate (May) Supasri | PhD Student | Characterisation of Photosynthetic Apparatus of Symbiodinum Exposed to Bleaching Condition
Lorenzo Barolo | PhD Candidate | Glyco-engineering of therapeutic proteins from microalgae
Iurri Bodachivskyi | PhD Student | Acid-catalysed conversion of algal biomass into value added small molecules
Jestin George | PhD Candidate | The green horizon for biotech: a genome editing approach
John Hanna | Honours Student | Investigating C. vulgaris biomass production and nutrient uptake in photobioreactors
Annalisa Humphries | Honours | Bioactivity screening of micro and macro algae
Kenji Iwasaki | PhD Student | Investigation into the effect of light quality on secondary metabolite production by microalgae
Margaret Ramarajan | PhD Student | Algal Transformation Techniques
Nhan-An Tran | PhD Student | Bioflocculation of the green alga N. oculata by using a member of its own bacterial consortium
Oksana Vronska | PhD | Developing a harvesting process for algal biomass production
Navpreet Kaur Walia | PhD Student |Functional Profiling and Classification of the Algal Strains Based on Cellulose Degradation Efficiency
Peter Wood | PhD Student | Development of continuous and integrated system for anaerobic digestion and microalgal culturing
Environmental photobioreactors (ePBRs)
500 mL vessels
Fully-controlled algal growth environment:
- Light delivery
- Aeration and stirring
- CO2 delivery
- Nutrient dosing
Continual data logging
Fast-response, high-sensitivity pH, pO2 and pCO2 sensors
Quantify photosynthesis rates, gas exchange and carbonate chemistry
Multi-colour PAM, Hex PAM, Imaging PAM, Microscopy PAM, Pocket PAM, Water PAM
Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometers
Spectrofluorometers (Cary Eclipse)
Light Engine (G&H OL490)
Quantify photosynthetic processes and algal health
Algae culturing facilities
Incubators and light/temperature-controlled rooms
PC2/AQIS accredited work areas
Molecular biology facilities
PCR and Real Time quantitative PCR machines
Next Generation Sequencing system (MiSeq)
Electroporation device for genetic transformation of microalgae
Chemical analysis tools
GC-MS and FTIR for lipids
IC for nutrients
HPLC for pigments
Microscopy and cytometry
High-resolution light microscope (DeltaVision OMX Blaze)
Inverted fluorescence microscope (Nikon Ti)
Laser-scanning confocal microscope (Nikon A1)
Single-cell isolation flow cytometer (BD Biosciences Influx)
Bodachivskyi, I., Kuzhiumparambil, U. & Williams, D.B.G. 2018, 'Acid-Catalyzed Conversion of Carbohydrates into Value-Added Small Molecules in Aqueous Media and Ionic Liquids.', ChemSusChem. View/Download from: Publisher's site
Commault, A.S., Laczka, O., Siboni, N., Tamburic, B., Crosswell, J.R., Seymour, J.R. & Ralph, P.J. 2017, 'Electricity and biomass production in a bacteria-Chlorella based microbial fuel cell treating wastewater', Journal of Power Sources, vol. 356, pp. 299-309. View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Tran, N.A.T., Seymour, J.R., Siboni, N., Evenhuis, C.R. & Tamburic, B. 2017, 'Photosynthetic carbon uptake induces autoflocculation of the marine microalga Nannochloropsis oculata', Algal Research, vol. 26, pp. 302-311. View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Chekli, L., Corjon, E., Tabatabai, S.A.A., Naidu, G., Tamburic, B., Park, S.H. & Shon, H.K. 2017, 'Performance of titanium salts compared to conventional FeCl3 for the removal of algal organic matter (AOM) in synthetic seawater: Coagulation performance, organic fraction removal and floc characteristics.', Journal of environmental management, vol. 201, pp. 28-36. View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Dr Susan Blackburn | Head of National Algae Culture Collection | CSIRO
Professor Ben Hankamer | Head of Chemistry and Structural Biology Division | University of Queensland
Professor David Kramer | Professor in Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics | Michigan State University
Professor Michael Kühl | Professor in Aquatic Microbial Ecology | University of Copenhagen
Professor John Raven | Emeritus Professor | University of Dundee
Algal Biosystems and Biotechnology volunteering projects
Opportunities for volunteers within the C3 Algae Biosystems and Biotechnology team
The Algae Biosystems and Biotechnology team combines experience in algae with a strong background in cellular and molecular biology as well as engineering to provide research-based solutions focusing on the development of the next generation of bioplastics, agricultural biostimulants, nutraceutical, food and animal feed, pharmaceutical and other high value products from microalgae.
The research team is also part of the Deep Green Hub, which brings together researchers, SMEs, industry, start-ups, students and other stakeholders to lead NSW to the forefront of algae-based biotechnology innovation in Australia.
The Algae Biosystems and Biotechnology research team offers opportunities to undergraduate students and volunteers to assist in research and outreach projects under the supervision of graduate students and staff members. Students and volunteers should expect to be assisting in the growing, harvesting and processing of algae as well as regular laboratory maintenance, including media preparation, solutions and sampling of cultured algae for analysis.
Goals of the Volunteer Program
- Familiarize students with an algae biotechnology research laboratory
- Offer students an opportunity to gain relevant laboratory skills and contribute to scientific projects.
- At least one academic session (~3 months) with possible renewals up to a maximum of 1 year
- Expected time commitment for volunteers: typically 15 hrs across 2-3 days per week. If your situation changes during semester and you are unable to continue your commitment, we expect you to notify your supervisor ASAP
- Role requires students to arrive on time daily and be prepared to contribute at least 1 hour a week to general lab duties as part of your role
- Role also requires students to attend all relevant lab meetings and training sessions.
2 years of undergraduate education including courses in chemistry, cell biology, microbiology or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Current UTS students are given preference.
2018-2019 Academic Year Application
There are limited number of volunteer positions open for UTS students in the Climate Change Cluster for 2019. There is a competitive application process to fill these positions, including interviews for those short-listed. In your email application, please include (1) an up to date resume; (2) most recent academic transcript; and (3) a cover letter which describes your motivation(s) for volunteering. Additional information, such as details of academic referees, may also be beneficial.
Application deadlines for volunteering positions are:
- 1st February application deadline for a March/April start
- 1st June application deadline for a July/August start
- 1st November application deadline for a negotiable Summer start
Once received, applications will be reviewed and successful applicants interviewed on a quarterly basis. We apologies for any delays, but this procedure allows us to manage the volume of applications and connect the right application with the right project.
Applications should be sent to email@example.com with the subject heading “C3 Volunteering Application”.
Professor Peter Ralph
Phone: 02 9514 4203