WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue-based team has made it to the top 15 finalists in the AlgaePrize competition – a contest that encourages student-led teams to develop real-world solutions for issues in the algae value chain.
This marks the first year the AlgaePrize competition has been held. The competition was launched by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office.
At the initial registration, 60 teams from across the country registered for AlgaePrize. Of those 60, 15 have been selected as finalists. The top five selected teams will be deemed the winners. Each winning team will be given a $10,000 prize. In April 2023, the winning teams will present their research to a panel of judges.
The judges will then select one grand champion, which will be awarded an additional $5,000.
Christy Sterner, technology manager for the Advanced Algal Systems at the DOE, explained how participates in this competition can benefit from the experience.
“Competitors will learn about the algae industry and will go on to support the nation’s biofuel research, algal commercial enhancement, and promote industry-driven education, training, and workforce development,” Sterner said.
Sterner further explained a myriad of additional benefits and learning experiences provided through AlgaePrize, including, verbatim:
- Gain experience with innovative algal commercialization technologies
- Develop real-world solutions that shape the global future of algae by producing biofuels, biofoods, biofeeds, and industrial compounds (e.g., biopolymers)
- Develop collaborative and leadership skills by working on multidisciplinary student teams
- Engage and network with industry professionals, national lab researchers, and academics to forge relationships and connections that aid students’ transition to the algal-based bioeconomy employment or entrepreneurial endeavors upon graduation
- Compete to earn prize money and national recognition
Melissa Marsing, a second-year Ph.D. student in chemical engineering and team captain of Purdue ChemE, one of the finalist teams, elaborated on why they entered AlgaePrize.
“My primary work through Dr. Morgan’s lab is actually cayanobacteria,” Marsing said. “I’m actually working on a project that is very similar to what the AlgaePrize project is, so it worked in beautifully. So I can continue doing things that are sort of related to my Ph.D. work, as well as related to the AlgaePrize competition.”
Marsing explained that they and their team researched developing strains of cayanobacteria that overproduce two different amino acids. This research could lead to the development of a more nutritious tilapia feed.
Why they entered AlgaePrize coincides with how what they have learned so far will help them in their future career.
“I think (AlgaePrize) is actually a really good opportunity for networking,” Marsing said. “The DOE and NREL and (BETO), we had a meeting with them, and they said, essentially, of all of the people who work in algae and cayanobacteria, they have close contacts with like 98% of them. And can get us in contact with anybody and everybody that we could ever want to speak with.
“The competition next April, which is in Colorado, will have a lot of those people there. So it’ll be a really big opportunity for me to really reach out and get to know those folks.”
Marsing stated that anyone interested in following Purdue ChemE’s progress can follow the team’s Twitter @MorganLabPurdue. ChemE is also currently searching for additional teammates to work with them over the course of the next year. Contact Marsing at email@example.com for more details.
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.