Mike Yates recently caught up with Dr. Yanan Xu, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Pat Harvey's algal research lab at the University of Greenwich.
Thank you for taking time to do this interview. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and where you work.
My name is Yanan Xu, and I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Pat Harvey ’s algal research group at the University of Greenwich. It is part of the Faculty of Engineering and Science.
How long have you been an Algem User?
I have been using the Algem since December 2012. I used one of the initial beta versions of the Algem while I was doing my PhD in Saul Purton’s lab at University College London (UCL). I then continued to use the Algem shortly after I joined Pat Harvey’s lab in February 2014.
Wow, you are one of the original beta-testers of the Algem! That is almost 5 years of Algem use – that’s brilliant. What species or samples do you work with?
It varies depending on the research. In the past, I worked a lot with Chlorella strains, but I have now been working on different strains of Dunaliella
What is briefly the aim of your research?
The aim of our research is to characterise isolated algal strains and evaluate the potential for high value products.
Interesting. What do you use the Algem for?
Our lab has three Algem systems (the equivalent of six reactor vessels), and I use the Algems to compare different algal strains under a range of environmental conditions such as light, temperature, pH, and salinity.
You published a paper last year using Algem, and you have another paper using Algem that has been submitted?
Yes, last year in May 2016, we published a paper using the Algem in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry titled, “ The influence of photoperiod and light intensity on the growth and photosynthesis of Dunaliella salina (chlorophyta) CCAP 19/30 ”. We have submitted a paper this year that is forthcoming titled, “ Potential of new isolates of Dunaliella salina for natural β-carotene production ”.
That’s exciting – I look forward to reading it. What do you like about the Algem?
I like that the Algem results are highly reproducible. I can set up multiple algal cultures with exactly the same conditions, and I can also precisely control the conditions of CO2, pH, light intensity, and temperature.
Do you use any other growing systems other than the Algem and how did they compare?
We use incubators and growth cabinets for flask cultures, and they are good for setting up large amounts of cultures. However, the conditions of each culture may vary a lot depending on the position of the flask in each of those set ups.
Is there one thing you would recommend other Algem users to try?
I like the Algem software and how it can be easily customised. For example, Dunaliella salina
does not have a cell wall, and it is very fragile and does not like being mixed all the time. The Algem software allows you to easily customise the mixing so that it briefly mixes before an optical density (OD) measurement. This is very useful.
Now to end with a fun question - what is your favourite alga and why?
I have to say Dunaliella salina . I have spent the most time researching Dunaliella salina compared to any other strain – I have been researching it for almost 4 years now. There is just so much to explore about this strain.
I have a soft spot for Dunaliella salina
too. Thank you for your time, Yanan. It has been great to speak with you.