08/08/ 2011

The UPR/UGA Renewable Energy Center (REC) is calling for applications from interested graduate students at UPR Rio Piedras or Mayagüez to compete for Research Fellowships in marine biofuels research.   The Center is funded by a grant from the US Department of Defense to develop the use of marine macroalgae and microalgae as biomass for fuel production. The REC steering committee will consider proposals in the areas of:  (I) algal characterization and culture, (ii)  the conversion of algal biomass into biogas fuels using anaerobic digestion, (iii) the thermochemical conversion of algal biomass into liquid or gaseous biofuels, (iv)  the recovery macro and micronutrients from biological or thermochemical energy conversion systems and their formulation as fertilizer for algal culture, and (v)  research into the scale up, environmental impact and economic viability of marine biomass production systems for renewable energy production.


Students accepted or currently enrolled in the graduate programs of the College of Natural Sciences at UPRRP or UPRM. We particularly encourage students in Chemistry, Biology Environmental Sciences, and Marine Sciences to apply.  Ideal candidates have completed their course work and have already begun to work full time on their research project.  ALL FELLOWS MUST HAVE ADVISERS FROM RÍO PIEDRAS OR MAYAGŰEZ WHO ARE PARTICIPATING IN REC RESEARCH AND WORK ON A THESIS PROJECT DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE RESEARCH OBJECTIVES OF THE REC.


Students who do not match the ideal criteria may still apply, but they should be aware that the number of awards is limited and priority will be given to students who most closely match the profile of the ideal candidate.



These fellowships are primarily for advanced graduate students who have completed their qualifying exams.  Students who do not qualify in the first year they apply may reapply in subsequent years.   Students who have been accepted as fellows will be required to reapply annually and show satisfactory progress in their research in order to continue to receive funding from the REC fellowship program.

The application procedure for all potential REC  fellows is as follows:

i. The applicant will submit a letter of interest with a letter of endorsement from  the students adviser.  The letter should include a one to three page description (not including bibliography) of the students research project and must clearly demonstrate how the project fits within the REC program for the development of marine biofuels.   In addition, the letter should clearly state the expected outcomes of the program and significant research milestones  A more detailed description of the Renewable Energy Center and the DOD funded marine biofuels program may be found at our web site at

ii. Attach a pdf version of the applicant’s curriculum vitae.

iii. Provide two letters of recommendation.  One of the letters must be signed by the applicant's thesis adviser or superviser.


The Review Process

- Completed Applications and all supporting letters  must be received by July 30, 2011.   Electronic submissions are acceptable at the following email address:   These applications become the property of the steering committee.
- The REC  steering committee will review the applications and select a short list of candidates for interviews.
- Individual students may  be contacted for an interview with one or more members of the steering committee.
- Final awards will be announced prior to the end of registration for the fall 2011-2012 academic year.



DOD funded research fellowships are available only for U.S citizens and permanent residents.  Students must be full time graduate students in good standing enrolled in one of the graduate programs in Natural Sciences of the UPRRP or UPRRUM.



The qualifying  fellows will be paid up to  $1,500 per month and will receive payment of full tuition, fees and health. In addition, travel funding is available for fellows to present their research at a scientific conference or for collaborative research at UGA. Students may not receive funding from other fellowships, RA’s or TA’s while supported by the REC DOD program grant.


Renewal of Support

Successful applicants will be approved for one year of funding.  The student may apply for funding in subsequent years in competition with new students joining the program for the first time.  Students applying for follow-up funding will be required to show satisfactory progress in their research program and completion of their research milestones in order to qualify for funding renewal.   Funding renewal is NOT guaranteed and is subject to the availability of funds and the approval of the steering committee of the REC marine biomass research program.    Funded students may NOT apply for renewal in the event that their thesis or dissertation adviser resigns from  the REC marine biomass research program or leaves the faculty of UPRRP or UPRM.



Once a student is named an REC fellow, that student assumes specific responsibilities during their graduate careers at the University of Puerto Rico:

1.)   Biographical Sketches

Each funded student should submit a brief biographical statement and a photo for the UPR-REC website. These statements should include general information (name, education background, email, adviser, research interest, publications).  These biosketches will also be used on the REC web site and made freely available to the public.

2.)   Time Commitment

Funded students are expected to work full time on their research project under the close supervision of their thesis adviser.    Research productivity, publications and conference presentations will all be taken into account when reviewing applications for renewal of funding.

3.)   Research Ethics

REC fellows are expected to read, understand and abide by the norms and regulations governing research ethics,   confidentiality,   intellectual property,   publication and all other relevant guidelines for best practices in their chosen research field, as well as  all regulations governing research conduct established by the University of Puerto Rico.

The REC Marine Biomass Energy collaborators:



Research Interest

Contact Info

Dr. Loretta Roberson

Environmental Science, UPRRP

Macroalgae production systems,   photosynthesis.  787-764-0000 x 2713

Dr. Gary Gervais

Environmental Science, UPRRP

Environmental microbiology,  design and operation of anaerobic bioreactors.

787-764-0000 x 7344

Dr. Rafael RÍos

Environmental Science, UPRRP

Water and wastewater treatment and control systems.

787-764-0000 x 4718

Dr. Kai Griebenow, P.I.

Department of Chemistry, UPRRP

Biochemistry of the photosynthesis of biofuel producing algae. Artificial light-harvesting complexes.

787-764-0000 x 2391; x 2324

fax:   787-764-1588

Dr. Liz DÍaz

Department of Chemistry, UPRRP

Thermochemical conversion; biosensors

(787) 764-0000 ext. 3505

Dr. Gary Toranzos

Department of Biology, UPRRP

Environmental microbiology;  anaerobic ecosystems; microbial water quality.

787-764-0000 x 4885

Dr. Luis RÍos Hernández

Department of Biology, UPRM

Anaerobic microbial metabolism;   characterization of anaerobic microbial ecosystems.

787-832-4040x 2958;

787-237-6143 (cel)


Dra. Nilda Aponte

Department of Marine Sciences,  UPRM

Taxonomy and identification of the macroalgae of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

(787) 265-3838;

(787) 899-2048 ext. 260


In addition,  the REC is working closely with the Renewable Energy Center of the University of Georgia at Athens (Dr. K.C. Das and Dan Geller) and the Technology Transfer Center of the UGA (Ryan Adolfson) as well as a private biofuels startup company in Dorado, Puerto Rico (Mr. Jorge Gaskins, BLPR).  Facilities and expertise at these collaborating institutions will be available to students and fellows are encouraged to incorporate them in  their research plans.  Please contact us for more information about opportunities for cooperation with our partner institutions.