Noah Willis


I hail from Milford, PA, a small touristy town in the Tri-State area, where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all come together.

My activities, hobbies, and interests include, but are definitely not limited to, basketball, weightlifting, and studying philosophy. I am also a huge fan of the CW shows Arrow and Flash, along with 95% of the Marvel superhero movies that have come out so far. 

I am a member of the Class of 2019 here at Penn State, majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Algae Culture Maintenance:

CurtisLab maintains 9 different strains of microalgae for use in various biofuels experiments. Since the move from Fenske to Greenberg, I have taken charge of the maintenance of 8 of these 9 cultures (for information on the 9th, please see Jake Scoccimera’s profile). My work has involved revitalizing some of our old cultures and purifying several of the species that had become contaminated, either during the move or just by happenstance prior to the move. A future goal is to test the antibiotics tolerance for each microalga, with the goal of developing a unique antibiotic “cocktail” for each species which would dramatically simplify the purification process, removing most if not all of contaminating bacteria in a single step, as opposed to over multiple generations of plate culturing. 

Botryococcus Braunii Collection Kits:

The goal of this project is to create a “citizen’s science kit” which could be sent around the world to be used in the isolation and collection of different strains of the microalgae Botryococcus Braunii a notable biofuels candidate. This project was originally part of a grant designed to study the microbial community that microalgae and similar organisms develop over time in an effort to obtain a survival advantage. Unfortunately, this grant was not funded, in part because the development of this kit was seen as unrealistic. In the spirit of proving them wrong, and also in the continued study of Botryococcus Braunii, i have continued with this project. It is nearing completion, and I aim to have a working and economically viable prototype at some point in Spring 2017. Stay tuned!

pJMT1 Transformation:

Over the summer and fall of 2016, I have collaborated with several other students and a visiting faculty member in an attempt to genetically modify two microalgal species to increase their ability to detoxify wastewater. This has involved the insertion of foreign DNA into the algae via the Agrobacterium mediated transformation method, colony purification, and attempts to confirm the transformation by a subsequent colony PCR.

ChlF Transformation:

Going into the spring of 2017, I am hoping to make use of some of the skills I have obtained from work with the pJMT1 transformation project and apply them towards the genetic modification of a microalgae with a different gene. The goal of this project is to increase the photosynthetic efficiency of a microalgal species, which could have significant implications for the use of microalgae as biofuels. Stay tuned!


Haonan Xu, Noah Willis, Wayne Curtis (2016). Monoculture Extraction and Permeability Constraints of Hydrocarbon Producing Colony Alga Botryococcus braunii. 2016 College of Engineering CERI Program Showcase, Dec. 2. State College, PA.


Stay tuned (hopefully)

Contact Information:

Cell: 443-994-4805
PSU email:
Personal email: