Algal-based college certificate program announces first graduates

By U.S. Department of Energy | June 20, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office-funded Algae Technology Educational Consortium is proud to announce its first graduates from the algal certificate program at Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

These first ATEC graduates received their Associate Applied Science Degree in Controlled Environment Agriculture with a certificate in Algae Cultivation on May 12. This program was conceptualized and designed by ATEC members including professors, algal commercial leaders, community college instructors, and the National Renewable Energy Lab.

The ATEC curriculum was designed with inputs from America’s leading algal companies to include education and training in specific job skills, thus allowing students’ skills to transfer immediately into professional careers. Better prepared and skilled employees decrease employer operational costs while supporting the renewable energy sector and the U.S. bioeconomy.    

ATEC’s continuing efforts include the development of algal biotechnology curriculum in partnership with Austin Community College in Austin, Texas.  The algal-based laboratory modules were included in the ACC curriculum in September 2017. ATEC’s Algae Cultivation Extension Short-courses are scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2018.

The ATEC curriculum, including eight new classes, is now expanding beyond the original two schools to include committed community colleges in California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Texas. These schools form the basis of future graduates of the ATEC curriculum, ensuring a steady stream of qualified algal professionals supporting the nation’s bioeconomy.

Due to enthusiasm for the new certificate program, the successful release of the Introduction to Algae MOOC (massive online open course), and the renewed interest in seaweed (kelp) farming, the ATEC program is expanding its curriculum to include macroalgae/seaweed. Seaweeds represent a six-fold commercial opportunity as compared to the global microalgal markets.   

ATEC is expanding its program to include the Algae Foundation’s Algae Academy K-12 effort, which has already reached nearly 5,000 students from three states, California, Michigan, and Ohio. In 2018, the Algae Academy hopes to offer a free, algal-based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM, curriculum kit to 20,000 students based in six states (California, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, and Ohio).