Welcome to the Sustainable & Synthetic Biology (SSB) group, led by Kyle Lauersen, in the Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering (BESE) Division of KAUST.

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The Sustainable and Synthetic Biotechnology (SSB) research group aims to develop resource-efficient bio-processes via genetic engineering and process design. Our work leverages the technologies collectively known as synthetic biology to turn microorganisms into powerful work-horses. A main research interest of the SSB is the engineering of microalgae as green cell factories for light-driven conversion of waste carbon streams (i.e. CO2) into valuable products.

Our interests include both fundamental and applied aspects of (trans)gene expression regulation, carbon metabolism, metabolic engineering, and to translate fundamental understanding into sustainable light-driven biotechnology concepts with green host organisms.

07 March, 2024

Seminar: SynBio Young Speaker Series (SynBYSS)

Prof. Lauersen presented the work of his group as part of the SynBYSS seminar initiative.

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06 March, 2024

SSB group's research featured in ArabNews

The group's recent article about microalgal-based production of fragrant oud compounds was showcased in the newspaper Arab News.

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05 March, 2024

SSB group article selected as journal back cover

The research article by Gutiérrez et al. was selected as back cover by the journal Green Chemistry.

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10 January, 2024

ACS Synthetic Biology journal appoints Prof. Lauersen to their Early Career Board

SSB Lab Professor Kyle Lauersen has joined the Early Career Board of the journal ACS Synthetic Biology.

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09 January, 2024

Prof. Lauersen appointed to journal editorial board

Professor Kyle Lauersen was recently assigned to the Editorial Board of the journal "New Biotechnology".

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13 December, 2023

KAUST INSIGHT news article: The sweet smell of successful wastewater treatment

The recent work of SSB Lab postdocs Dr. Barbara Freitas and Dr. Sebastian Overmans was featured in an article in the KAUST INSIGHT magazine.

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12 December, 2023

SSB Lab visits Mars chocolate factory

Members of the SSB Lab visited the chocolate factory operated by Mars Inc. in nearby KAEC.

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29 November, 2023

Invited talk at Bielefeld University

Prof. Kyle Lauersen gave an invited talk at his alma mater Bielefeld University.

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23 November, 2023

Sustainable Biotechnology Symposium at HHU

Prof. Kyle Lauersen attended the Sustainable Biotechnology Symposium hosted by Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany.

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22 November, 2023

Invited talk at University of the Basque Country

Prof. Kyle Lauersen gave an invited talk to members of the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the Basque Country

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18 October, 2023

SSB Lab visitor: Dr. Adrian Nievergelt

This week, the SSB group hosted Dr. Adrian Nievergelt from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (Dresden, Germany) at KAUST.

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17 August, 2023

News article: Algal biotechnologists at KAUST are generating sustainable animal feeds in Saudi Arabia

A project led by Prof. Lauersen and Dr. Claudio Fuentes-Grünewald that involves the cultivation of the microalga C. merolae for animal feed, is featured in KAUST NEWS.

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18 June, 2023

Dr. Gordon Wellman represents SSB group at two conferences

Dr. Gordon Wellman traveled to Princeton University and Singapore to present his latest research.

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21 June, 2023

Razan Yahya wins Biotechnology Notes Prize

PhD candidate Razan Yahya was awarded the Biotechnology Notes Prize at the Metabolic Engineering 15 Conference in Singapore.

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21 June, 2023

Malak Abdallah presents her PhD work in Singapore

PhD candidate Malak Abdallah presented her PhD research at the Metabolic Engineering 15 Conference in Singapore.

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23 June, 2023

Invited Talk at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn

Prof. Lauersen was invited to give a student lecture and Departmental Seminar at the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples, Italy. His visit was organized by Dr. Sabrina Carella and PhD student Gabriele de Falco.

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20 June, 2023

Dr. Sebastian Overmans attends international AlgalBBB conference on Hawaii's Big Island

SSB group's postdoctoral fellow Dr. Sebastian Overmans gives a conference talk at this year's AlgalBBB meeting in Hawaii.

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19 June, 2023

PhD student Mauricio Lopez-Portillo Masson travels to Hawaii

SSB student Mauricio Lopez-Portillo Masson attended the AlgalBBB conference in Hawaii to present his latest research results.

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18 June, 2023

Melany Villegas-Valencia attends SEED and Metabolic Engineering conferences

SSB group's PhD student Melany Villegas-Valencia presented a scientific poster at the Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design (SEED) Conference in Los Angeles.

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17 June, 2023

Sergio Gutiérrez presents his research at conferences

PhD candidate Sergio Gutiérrez presented his work at three international conferences in the USA and Singapore this summer.

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16 June, 2023

Conference posters by Dr. Barbara Bastos de Freitas

SSB postdoc Dr. Barbara Bastos de Freitas recently presented her research at the Chlamy2023 and AlgalBBB conferences.

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15 June, 2023

Metabolic Engineering 15 Conference

Several SSB group members, including Melany Villegas, Razan Yahya, Malak Abdallah, Sergio Gutiérrez, and Dr. Gordon Wellman attended this year's Metabolic Engineering Conference in Singapore.

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14 June, 2023

AlgalBBB Conference

SSB group's PhD student Mauricio Lopez-Portillo Masson, Dr. Barbara Bastos de Freitas, Dr. Sebastian Overmans, and Prof. Kyle Lauersen attended this year's International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels & Bioproducts (AlgalBBB) in Hawaii together with their close collaborators Dr. Mark Seger and Prof. Peter Lammers from AzCATI.

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09 June, 2023

Chlamy2023 Conference

PhD student Sergio Gutierrez and Postdoctoral Fellows Dr. Barbara Bastos de Freitas and Dr. Gordon Wellman attended the International Conference on the Cell and Molecular Biology of Chlamydomonas at Princeton University.

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02 June, 2023

2023 Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design (SEED) Conference

SSB group PhD students Melany Villegas and Sergio Gutierrez presented their work at the 2023 Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design (SEED) Conference in Los Angeles.

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30 May, 2023

Podcast: Joyful Microbe - Algae in Nature and Biotechnology

Prof. Kyle Lauersen joins Justine Dees as part of her podcast series Joyful Microbe in an episode entitled "Algae in Nature and Biotechnology".

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20 May, 2023

Special issue: Algal Research

Call for papers on the topic "Metabolic engineering/synthetic biology of eukaryotic microalgae for better light-driven biosynthesis and production" in the journal Algal Research.

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17 May, 2023

Editorial appointment: Planta

Prof. Lauersen was appointed to the Editorial Board of the journal Planta, where he will handle manuscripts relating to algal biotechnology.

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15 May, 2023

Event: BESE Distinguished Lecture

The SSB Lab hosted BESE Dean’s Distinguished Lecture entitled "From genetics parts to synthetic genomes" by Prof. Patrick Yizhi Cai from the University of Manchester.

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09 May, 2023

MSc defence: Amna Abdulshakoor Abdullah

Amna Abdulshakoor Abdullah, Master student in the SSB Lab, successfully defended her Bioengineering MSc thesis entitled "Heterologous expression of two ice binding proteins fro the chloroplast genome of a high-density cultivation enabled Chlamydomonas reinhardtii strain".

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08 May, 2023

MSc defence: Fatimah Abualsaud

SSB Lab student Fatimah Abualsaud successfully defended today her Bioengineering MSc thesis entitled "Engineering volatile isoprene production from the polyextremophilic red microalga Cyanidioschyzon merolae".

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22 April, 2023

News article: Tiny algae have huge potential for Saudi Arabia’a bioeconomy

A bioprospecting project led by Prof. Lauersen that involves testing the potential of microalgae native to the central Red Sea region for biotechnology applications, is featured in the KAUST INSIGHT magazine.

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21 April, 2023

Invited talk for Institute for Genomics for Crop Abiotic Stress Tolerance at Texas Tech University

Professor Lauersen gave a Zoom seminar for the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the Institute for Genomics for Crop Abiotic Stress Tolerance at Texas Tech University.

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18 April, 2023

Invited Talk at Carnegie Institution for Science

Prof. Kyle Lauersen gave an invited talk at Stanford's Carnegie Institution for Science, following an invitation from Dr. Adrien Burlacot.

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13 April, 2023

Invited talk at Apeel Sciences

Prof. Kyle Lauersen was honored to be invited to give a talk at Apeel Sciences in Santa Barbara (California) today. Apeel is a food biotech company that developed a method to prolongue the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by applying a "second peel" composed entirely of purified monoglycerides and diglycerides.

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16 March, 2023

Event: Dual BioE Seminar

The SSB lab visitors Dr. Jeffrey Moseley and Prof. Peter Lammers both gave a BioE seminar talk this week. Jeffrey discussed his academic journey in his talk entitled "There and Back Again: Algae Biology and Biotechnology in Industry and Academia", while Peter presented his work on extemophilic microalgae in his seminar "Metabolic engineering with Microalgae: exploiting the versatility of polyextremophiles".

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14 March, 2023

SSB Lab visitors: Dr. Jeffrey Moseley, Dr. Mark Seger, Prof. Peter Lammers

This week, the SSB group welcomed three academic collaborators to KAUST, including Dr. Jeffrey Moseley from UC Berkeley, and Dr. Mark Seger and Prof. Peter Lammers from the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University.

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02 March, 2023

KAUST Research Open Week 2023

SSB Lab research was presented by MSc students Fatimah Abdualsaud and Amna Abdullah, and by visiting highschool student Yazan Alflayyeh at the KAUST Research Open Week (KROW) poster session.

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21 February, 2023

Engineering Biology Research Consortium: Global Forum 2.0

Prof Kyle Lauersen participated in the second EBRC Global Forum for Engineering Biology: Review of Synthetic Biology/Bioeconomy National Strategies (EBRC Global Forum 2.0), which was held on 20/21 February 2023 in Singapore in partnership with the Singapore Consortium for Synthetic Biology (SINERGY).

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15 January, 2023

Podcast: Tiny Living Beings - Genetic engineering of algae

Professor Kyle Lauersen joins Julia Van Etten for her podcast series Tiny Living Beings in an episode entitled "Genetic engineering of algae".

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05 December, 2022

International Workshop on Algae Culture and Innovation

Prof Kyle Lauersen joined other experts in the field of algae culture for an international workshop co-organized by FAO, UN and DAB-MEWA to discuss the future of algae-based aquaculture and innovation.

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01 December, 2022

News article: SSB Lab publication showcased in KAUST Discovery

A recent research article of SSB group member Dr Sebastian Overmans and Professor Kyle Lauersen that was published in Green Chemistry is showcased in the KAUST Discovery magazine.

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29 November, 2022

Visiting student: Yazan Alflayyeh

High school student and MEWA intern Yazan Alflayyeh visited the SSB lab for a research stay to conduct analytical laboratory work in collaboration with Sergio Gutierrez and Dr Sebastian Overmans.

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17 November, 2022

BESE Dean's award for SSB students

SSB Lab PhD students Malak Abdallah, Razan Yahya, and Sergio Gutierrrez were selected as recipients of the 2022 BESE Dean's award.

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30 October, 2022

SSB Lab visitor: Prof. Olaf Kruse

Professor Olaf Kruse from Bielefeld University, Kyle's former PhD supervisor, visited the SSB Lab and gave a seminar entitled: "Bioengineering microalgae for their application as green cell factories".

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18 October, 2022

Event: Saudi Agriculture Business Forum

Professor Kyle Lauersen attended this year's Saudi Agriculture Business Forum to hear about current agriculture projects in KSA connect with researchers and stakeholders in this field.

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04 October, 2022

SSB Lab visitor: Professor Claudia Vickers

Professor Claudia Vickers visited the SSB Lab and gave a Bioengineering Seminar entitled: "Eden Brew and synthetic biology for metabolic engineering in microbial organisms".

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28 September, 2022

Springer Nature Webinar

Professor Kyle Lauersen was an invited guest speaker at a Springer Nature webinar entitled "Chlamydomonas: Unlocking Discoveries in Sustainable Biotechnology.

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26 September, 2022

Sciencetown Podcast: Algae - a metabolic treasure trove

Episode 22 of KAUST's Sciencetown podcast features algal experts Claudio Grünewald and Kyle Lauersen in conversation about their projects.

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14 June, 2022

News article: Creating an Algal Innovation Bloom

The innovative microalgae-based research projects led by Professor Kyle Lauersen are featured in an article in the "KAUST Insight" magazine.

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13 June, 2022

SSB Lab Visitor: Prof. Paul Freemont

Professor Paul Freemont from Imperial College London visited the SSB Lab from 11-13 June, and gave a distinguished lecture to the BESE Division entitled "Enabling the Transition to a Global Bioeconomy with Synthetic Biology - Opportunities and Challenges".

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26 April, 2022

News article: The future of algae – a treasure trove of green for the Kingdom

KAUST's microalgae bioprospecting research projects led by Professor Kyle Lauersen and Dr Claudio Grünewald are featured in a KAUST News article.

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03 June, 2022

SSB Lab Visitors: Prof. Stephen Rader and Dr. Martha Stark

Professor Stephen Rader and Dr Martha Stark from the University of Northern British Columbia visited KAUST for a 2-week research stay at the SSB Lab. As experts in the field of the extremophile red alga Cyanidioschyzon merolae, they shared their knowledge about the species's cultivation and transformation methods. Professor Stephen Rader also gave an invited BioEngineering Seminar entitled: "What have introns done for you lately? Investigations of the function and evolution of introns in a new model system, the red alga Cyanidioschyzon merolae"

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31 March, 2022

MSc defences: Salma and Manar

SSB Lab students Salma AlKaff and Manar Shlbi successfully defended today their Bioengineering MSc theses entitled "A comparison of solvents for their suitability as solvent-culture two phase systems for living extraction of microbial isoprenoids using the green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a model organism" (Salma) and "Investigation of heterologous expression of the non-ribosomal peptide blue pigment synthase and its activator from the nuclear genome of the model microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii" (Manar). We wish them both all the best in their future endeavors.

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30 November, 2021

KAUST Research Open Week

The SSB Lab was represented with a booth at this year's Research Open Week. Here, and during the poster session, members of the group showcased their latest microalgae research.

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09 June, 2021

SSB Lab Official Opening Ceremony

The Sustainable & Synthetic Biotechnology Lab was officially inaugurated today by KAUST President Tony Chan, Deans Pierre Magistretti and Samir Hamdan, and Professor David Keyes. After the official ceremony, several invited guests got a chance to join a guided tour of the state-of-the-art lab facilities.

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09 January, 2020

SSB Lab Visitor: Dr. Jonas Frohwitter

Dr. Jonas Frohwitter is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Biberach University of Applied Science. He visited KAUST after being invited by the SSB lab as a speaker to deliver a talk titled "From Purple Bacteria to cell-free enzymatic systems: Industrial biotech in Biberach."

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02 December, 2020

SSB participation at CCI

The SSB group was proud to be represented by Dr. Kyle Lauersen, Dr. Gordon Wellman and Lab Manager John Girgis at the Circular Carbon Initiative launch event. They presented 9 of the algal species that are currently being studied in the laboratory, and displayed a bioreactor prototype capable of cultivating high-value algal strains at high densities.

Dr. Kyle Lauersen was also invited to be one of the CCI on-screen presenters, with the video attached below.

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21 October, 2019

Talk at Macquarie University in Sydney

Prof. Lauersen gave a talk at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia hosted by Prof. Ian Paulsen and Dr. Briardo Llorente. The talk was titled "Transforming Algae into a Sustainable Production Platform."

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17 October, 2019

Talk at the IMB in Brisbane

Prof. Lauersen gave a visiting lecture at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at University of Queensland, Brisbane, hosted by Prof. Ben Hankamer. His lecture was titled "Transforming Algae into a Sustainable Production Platform," and was focused on explaining the potential Algae hold as a biotechnology platform.

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23 October, 2019

SSB Lab Visitor: Liliana Calzadiaz Ramirez

Liliana Calzadiaz Ramirez is a PhD Candidate at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology. Liliana currently studies enzyme engineering, and visited KAUST after being invited by the SSB lab as a speaker to deliver a talk titled "Testing, Screening and Evolving NADPH-regenerating enzymes with an E. coli NADPH-sensor strain."

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11 October, 2019

SynCTI Meeting in Singapore

Prof. Lauersen today had the chance to deliver a talk at a conference in Singapore on the topic of "Future Trends in Synthetic Biology: Asian Perspectives." His talk was titled "Transforming Algae into a Sustainable Production Platform," and represented the Saudi Arabian and Persian Gulf potential for joining the Synthetic Biology revolution.

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16 February, 2020

SSB Lab Visitor: Dr. Julian Wichmann

Dr. Julian Wichmann is a Post-Doctoral Fellow, and was Prof. Lauersen's previous PhD student, at Bielefeld University. He visited KAUST after being invited by the SSB lab as a speaker to deliver a talk titled "Development of high-throughput process to optimise microbes for biofertilizer applications."Learning by building: Engineering light-driven green cell factories for the sustainable production of hydrocarbon chemicals enables understanding of metabolic architectures in eukaryotic algae".

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01 March, 2020

SSB Lab Visitor: Zeenat Rupawalla

Zeenat Rupawalla is a PhD Candidate in Professor Ben Hankamer's group in Australia. She and Prof. Lauersen met when they were working with Dr. Hankamer at the same time. Zeenat visited KAUST after being invited by the SSB lab as a speaker to deliver a talk titled "Development of high-throughput process to optimise microbes for biofertilizer applications."

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13 October, 2019

SSB visits #SBA2019

In October, Prof. Lauersen had a chance to visit Dr. Claudia Vickers's team from Australia in Singapore, and then visited Australia directly, to learn more about the future of Synthetic Biology.

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29 October, 2019

Algae talk at RSRC Open Science conference

Prof. Lauersen had the absolute privilege of delivering The Red Sea Research Center's Open Science Conference Keynote Lecture, titled "Keynote Lecture: Exploring the potential of algae as a sustainable biotechnological production platform" today!

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29 November, 2019

Talk at NEOM

Today, Prof. Lauersen had an opportunity to speak at NEOM to help the planners and organizers imagine a biology-inclusive design with his talk titled "Sustainability, Synethic Biology, and Applied Biotechnology: A Vision for NEOM." Only good things can come from collaborations between people working towards a progressive and wild future.

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15 January, 2020

Talk at NYUAD

Prof. Lauersen recently had the pleasure of speaking to a select few Post-Doctoral Fellows at NYUAD about his career trajectory and making the next jump in their academic careers. The food was plenty!

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21 January, 2020

Algae talk at CBRC Research Conference

Prof. Lauersen had the absolute privilege of speaking about Algal medical applications, including wound healing and improving food quality, at the CBRC Digital Wellbeing conference today.

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27 October, 2019

SSB Lab Visitor: Dr. Dennis Dienst

Dr. Dennis Dienst received his PhD from Humboldt University of Berlin, and is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Uppsula University studying high density cultivation methods for microalgae. Dennis visited KAUST after being invited by the SSB lab as a speaker to deliver a talk titled "Towards improved microbial chassis for the photosynthetic production of terpenoids."

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02 December, 2019

SSB Lab Visitor: Dr. Boas Pucker

Dr. Boas Pucker just completed his PhD from Bielefeld University. He visited KAUST after being invited by the SSB lab as a speaker to deliver a talk titled "Computational approaches to study plant genomics and evolution."

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19 February, 2020

Panel Talk at Sci-Café

Prof. Lauersen had the absolute privilege of speaking on a panel along with Prof. Mani Sarathy and Dr. Thomas Finkbeiner. The panel was part of KAUST's Sci-Café initiative and the topic was 'Circular Carbon Economy.'

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16 September, 2019

Interview with EUSynBioS

On the latest “Young PIs” interview series, Konstantinos Vavitsas from EUSynBioS interviewed Prof. Lauersen based on his recent appointment as an Assistant Professor. Even though Konstantinos and Prof. Lauersen have published a paper together, it was their first chance to discuss science, algae, and the future at large together.

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