General Information

 I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Delaware in the laboratory of Dr. Kelvin Lee, having completed my M.S. degree from Penn State University in Dec 2011.  

I joined the Curtis Group in January of 2009 (for the second time!) as an Instructor for ChE 340, entering graduate school at Penn State in Fall 2009.  I finished my Masters in Chemical Engineering in Dec 2011: AN ASSESSMENT OF PHOTOSYNTHETIC BIOFUELS AND ELECTROFUELS TECHNOLOGIES UNDER RATE-LIMITED CONDITIONS.  (the full thesis is available via this link).  

When not in lab, you're most likely to find me running, on a bike, or in the pool.  

Education & Work

  • Enrolled as a doctoral student at the University of Delaware, department of Chemical Engineering.

  • M.S. Chemical Engineering (Dec 2011), Pennsylvania State University.  

  • Instructor, Penn State University. Jan 2009-May 2010.

  • Project Manager, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.  May 2007- Jan 2009.

  • Associate Manufacturing Specialist, GlaxoSmithKline.  Feb 2006- May 2007

  • B.S. Chemical Engineering, 2005, Pennsylvania State University

  • Undergraduate Honors Thesis (under Dr. Curtis): Transient Expression of Therapeutic Proteins and Oxygen Mass Transfer Limitations in Plant Tissue Culture

  • Co-op: DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise: Summer, Fall 2004, Summer 2005

  • West Chester East High School, Class of 2001


I first started in the Curtis Lab in December of 2001 (no that's not a typo) as Penn State freshman undergraduate.  While my first initial project was testing a UV strobe to see if it would rapidly sterilize non-autoclaveable materials, I continued on into transient expression and plant tissue culture work.  I specilialized in liquid culture of germinating seedlings, to optimize transient expression by hormonal treatment and homogenization.  I also delved into O2 mass transfer limitations of the seedlings, and graduated in December of 2005, with my research work compiled into an Honors Thesis and a book chapter publication (email Dr. Curtis and he could provide you a copy if you like).  

I returned to Penn State in January 2009 to teach ChE 340, after 3 years of work in the pharmaceutical industry (GSK, Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics) and entered the graduate program in Fall 2009.  As a graduate student, my main responsibilities were with 'Team Algae': 

  • High Density Algal Flask culture (primarily Botryococcus, supervising the culture of Chlorella and Chlamyomonas by Patrick Hillery and Shalini Saxena (REU), respectively).  

  • Investigating growth robustness issues of Botryococcus braunii

  • Trickle Film reactor growth studies

  • Mentor for undergraduate student executing calorimetric determinations of energy fixation by different algal systems (Patrick Hillery)

My other main effort was the utilization of microbial energetic theory for the prediction of feasible electrofuels yields of transgenic Rhodobacter capsulatus and Ralstonia eutropha, in support of the ARPA-e project.   

I was also one of the two Student Leads on the 2011 EPA P3 (People, Planet, Prosperity) contest.   



  • Presentation: "Sunlight to C34 Hydrocarbons: From Ultra-high Algae Productivity to Electrofuels".  Curtis, WR and Tuerk, AL. May 9, 2011, BIO World Congress, Toronto, ON, Ca.  

  • Poster: "Trash to Treasure with our Microbial Friends: Converting Waste Streams to Nutrient Feeds.  Integrated Bioprocess Systems for Low-Cost Environmental Remediation and Sustainable Biofertilizer Production." Guo J, Khatri W, Tuerk A, Wolcot E, Woolston B, Curtis W.  Apr 15-17, 2011, EPA P3 Design Expo, Washington Mall, Washington, D.C.    LINK

  • Presentation: “Overall Energy Considerations for Algae Species Comparison and Selection in Algae-to-Fuels Processes”. Link, D, Tuerk, AL. Feb 23, 2011, Alternative Energy NOW Conference, Lake Buena Vista, FL.

  • Presentation: “Transient Expression of Therapeutic Proteins and Oxygen Transport Limitations in Plant Tissue Culture.” Tuerk, ALApril 2005, AIChE Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting, Lafayette College, Easton, PA. 

  • Poster: “Transient Expression of Therapeutic Proteins and Oxygen Transport Limitations in Plant Tissue Culture.” Tuerk, ALApril 2005, Undergraduate Research Exhibition, Penn State University, Univeristy Park, PA.

  • Poster: “Transient Expression of Therapeutic Proteins and Oxygen Transport Limitations in Plant Tissue Culture.” Tuerk, ALApril 2005, International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers Delaware Valley Chapter meeting, Landsdale, PA

Contacting Me


Graduate: Algae