Research Activities

As Director of UTEX, the Culture Collection of Algae at the University of Texas at Austin, Jerry Brand studies methods that improve the services and quality control practices of UTEX. A cryopreservation research program that was started in 1995 has the goal of cryopreserving as many strains as possible in the Collection in order to minimize the cost of maintenance, to reduce the danger of mishandling or mislabeling cultures, and to virtually eliminate the possibility of mutation and selection of variant forms during the time that algal cultures are frozen. Currently over 2,000 different strains in UTEX are successfully maintained as cryopreserved cultures at liquid nitrogen temperature.

In 2008 UTEX began a DNA "barcoding" program, with the ultimate purpose of recording a gene sequence that demonstrates homology for all strains but is likely to be unique for each different strain in UTEX. The ITS (Internal Transcribed Spacer) gene has been selected for sequencing. At a minimum, the complete ITS II sequence will be determined for as many strains as possible. This reference information provides a primary criterion for determining if a strain has been mislabeled, has been incorrectly identified, and/or has undergone evolutionary alteration at the ITS II site.

Jerry Brand and associated laboratory personnel work closely with Sunrise Ridge Algae to develop methods of producing mass cultures of microalgae for commercial uses, with the ultimate goal of producing a renewable source of transportation fuel. Work in the Brand laboratory focuses on exploration of the diversity of algae in UTEX, problems of scale-up, and exploration of methods for improving lipid yields.

Other projects in the laboratory of Jerry Brand are directed toward an understanding of the mechanism dinitrogen assimilation in non-heterocystous cyanobacteria and the function of the recently discovered nodules of certain cyanobacteria.