Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cain Department of Chemical Engineering

Document Type



Cyanobacteria were the first organisms to use oxygenic photosynthesis, converting CO2 into useful organic chemicals. However, the chemical industry has historically relied on fossil raw materials to produce organic precursors, which has contributed to global warming. Thus, cyanobacteria have emerged as sustainable stakeholders for biotechnological production. The filamentous cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. UTEX 2576 can metabolize multiple sources of Nitrogen and was studied as a platform for biotechnological production of high-value chemicals (i.e., pigments, antioxidants, vitamins and secondary metabolites). From a Chemical engineering perspective, the biomass generation in this organism was thoroughly studied by interpreting the cell as a microbial bio-factory. Nutrient consumption kinetics was studied to analyze raw material requirements from the growth medium. Transformation operations were analyzed with a Genome-Scale Metabolic Model, as a robust metabolic network of biochemical reactions. Production of valuable compounds was assessed through chemical characterization of the cyanobacterial biomass, generating biomass equations of cellular growth. Here, systemic interpretations of cellular processes are discussed with the aim of optimizing photosynthetic chemical production, by controlling stress biology and environmental conditions. This work demonstrates that the sophisticated metabolic network of Anabaena sp. UTEX 2576 is highly dependent on their biological interactions with organic and inorganic nutrients. In addition, this work brings up new strategies for studying the utilization of metallic and mineral elements in cyanobacteria for biotechnological and environmental purposes, going beyond Carbon and Nitrogen.



Committee Chair

Benton, Michael G