Professor Stephen Mayfield

Professor Stephen Mayfield is the director of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology, co-director of Food & Fuel for the 21st Century and a professor of Molecular Biology at the University of California, San Diego. He is also Founder of Sapphire Energy and Triton Algae Innovations. His research focuses on gene regulation in eukaryotic algae and the use of this alga for the production of human therapeutic proteins and as a platform for biofuel production.

In my (long) time in microbiology I have had the pleasure of listening to a number of stimulating speakers who can genuinely raise excitement in an audience. Stephen Mayfield is among the best of these.

A quick search in YouTube will reveal many videos of some of Stephen’s talks. I would particularly recommend his TEDxUCSD talk on
“Food and fuel in the 21st century - algae” You can also see it on this site in the Videos About Commercial Microalgae page) I have also heard Stephen talk about this at a later conference. This is the clearest exposition of the importance of photosynthesis I have come across. Some 85% of energy we use today (oil = fossilised algae, and coal = fossilised land plants) has been generated by photosynthesis. Stephen’s link between continuing population growth and the use and depletion of oil reserves, and the link between the price of oil and the price of food, stopped me in my tracks.

But Stephen is undoubtedly a positive individual. He followed this warning with a very positive view of how microalgae can contribute not only to the energy story but also to the production of food and medicines.

To pick on just one more video, I recommend looking at his talk on “
Algae based food solutions”. (You can also see it on this site on the Videos About Commercial Microalgae page) In this he talks about a new agricultural revolution using microalgae to bring about a ‘sustainability revolution’.

Stephen is making a major contribution to the field of microbiology, not just through his work but also through his ability to communicate his thinking in a clear and thought-provoking way.

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