The Algae Class with Professor Miller

5 Oct

A Photobioreactor Field

This post is written by Honors student Ben Laman-Maharg

In my Honors science class we’ve been learning how to build a photobioreactor with the guidance of Professor Miller, a couple of biology PhDs, and Google.

For those who might not know exactly what a photobioreactor is, it’s simply an organic power plant of sorts. In our case, we’re growing a particular kind of algae, botryococcus braunii, in order to synthesize biofuels from it which are capable of powering a truck or heating a home. So far, class has mainly been about researching how the heck to actually pull something like this off. We’ve all become experts on botryococcus braunii, what it’s optimal growth environment is, what kind of oil it excretes, where to find it.

Another side of class has been modeled like a mock small business. Eventually, once we have a finished product, we’re going to try and sell it (like Monopoly, but not actually). In order to do this we’ve created a marketing team as well as a business team. So in addition to working on the technology end of the business (called Vitalgae™), people are also able to learn about what it’s like being a small start-up company, how to get money from the government, and how to market ourselves to business-savvy people. So far it’s been an exciting ride and it’ll be interesting to see where we all end up!

One Response to “The Algae Class with Professor Miller”


  1. UHPers Featured at Planet Forward Film Festival! « theUHP Blog - December 21, 2010

    […] to Prof. Houston Miller’s freshman science course, whose Vitalgae project was featured in the winning video at the Planet Forward Film […]

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