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Use of autotrophic and heterotrophic microorganisms for biofuel production

Delve into autotrophic & heterotrophic microorganisms and safeguard our environment by exploring their potential for advanced biofuels.

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CIVIS focus area
Climate, environment and energy
Open to
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • CIVIS Hub 1
Course dates
15 May - 13 July 2021

This short-term blended course will address the metabolic potential of microorganisms that can be mobilized for the production of biofuels as an alternative to fossil energy sources.

Objective of the course:

The use of autotrophic and heterotrophic microorganisms for the production of biofuels as a possible alternative to the dwindling supplies of fossil fuels is one of the most promising strategies being investigated today. This CIVIS Course will provide a strong knowledge of the current state of the art in the field by:

  • exploring bacterial Hydrogen metabolism from the molecular to the ecosystem scale and their potential biotechnological applications;
  • covering molecular and functional aspects of both [FeFe]- and [NiFe]-type hydrogenases;
  • summarizing our knowledge on the capacity of phototrophic microorganisms (Algae and cyanobacteria) to produce hydrogen, ethanol and lipids.

As hydrogenases can operate as biocatalysts in a so-called biofuel cell, this course will also discuss the main challenges in the integration of these biocatalysts for the development of biofuel cells as well as biomimetic and bioinspired approaches for the development of Molecular Electrocatalysts and biological conversion of plant Biomass into primary alcohols as an alternative to fossil energies.

Structure of the course:

Lectures, research seminars and two weeks of practical courses. 

Assessment criteria

  • Final written assessment
  • course attendance
  • active participation in the discussions (bonus)

Duration of the course: 2 months

Weekly study: 6 hours

Course format: blended

Location: Online + Marseille, France*

Language: English

Academic credits: 6 (for some universities)

*Subject to review, depending on the development of the current global pandemic.

Projected schedule:

  • Online courses:
    • Wednesdays: 17:00-19:00 (CET)
    • Saturdays: 8:00 - 12:00 (CET)
  • On-site course:
    • July 2021: 2 weeks of fieldwork hosted by the Institute of Microbiology, Bioenergies and Biotechnology, Aix-Marseille Université.

The course is open to fourth-year students as well as Masters and PhD students from the CIVIS member Universities who are majoring in life science. A strong background in molecular microbiology is required.

Aix-Marseille Université

Ass.Prof Myriam Brugna

Prof. Myriam Brugna is an associate professor at Aix-Marseille Université, BIP-CNRS, in Marseille. Research of her group focuses on hydrogenases, which are enzymes that reversibly catalyze the oxidation of molecular hydrogen into protons. She is interested in studying the role of hydrogenases in the energy metabolism of prokaryotes as well as the reaction mechanisms of these enzymes. She is thus developing an integrated multidisciplinary approach to hydrogen metabolism. Her research also aims to remove the scientific barriers to the use of hydrogenases in biotechnological processes and in particular to understand the molecular basis of the inactivation of hydrogenases by molecular oxygen. She is co-author of 45 peer-reviewed papers.

Dr Henri-Pierre Fierobe

Dr Henri-Pierre Fierobe is a CNRS Research director leader of the group « Cellulosomes and plant polymers degradation » in the Laboratory of Bacterial Chemistry (Marseille, France). His major interests are related to plant biomass deconstruction in anaerobic biotopes and to elucidate the strategies selected by anaerobic and cellulolytic microorganisms to perform an efficient degradation of the lignocellulosic plant material. He has participated in 9 EU or National multi-partner projects. He is co-author of 63 peer-review articles and has 6 patent applications.


Dr Marie-Thérèse Giudici-Orticoni

Dr Marie-Thérèse Giudici-Orticoni is director of the Laboratory of Bioenergetics and Protein Engineering in Marseilles, director of the Mediterranean Institute of Microbiology, is currently research director. Her group has characterized the main metabolic chains of organisms involving metalloenzymes, complexes and supercomplexes. New strategies for the production of suitable biocatalysts for biotechnological devices are being developed, especially for new energy sources (biomass, biogas, bioH2). She has expertise for implementation between research, training, innovation and valorization. She is author of 102 publications in refereed journals and 2 patents, scientific coordinator for national and international programs.

Prof. Amel Latifi

Prof. Amel Latifi is Microbiology-Professor at Aix-Marseille Université, LCB-CNRS. Her group is studying cell differentiation, genomics and signalling in cyanobacteria. The group is also interested in the use of cyanobacteria for biofuels, notably Bio-H2. She is co-author of 43 peer-reviewed papers. She is the principal coordinator of two funded programs exploring the use of hydrogenases in cyanobacteria with the ultimate aim of optimizing H2-production. She is the head of the Master “Microbiology” and the head of this CIVIS programme course for Aix-Marseille Université.

Dr Elisabeth Lojou 

Dr Elisabeth Lojou is research director at BIP-CNRS, Marseille. As a chemist, her interests have evolved from industrial research devoted to the development of high-power lithium cells to more fundamental queries concerning long-range electron transfer within biological macromolecules. She is co-author of 45 peer-reviewed papers. She achieved expertise in the construction of complex architectures, mimicking protein environments or offering a host matrix, for electrocatalysis involving metalloproteins. She especially developed new interfaces for catalytic bioremediation of metals by cytochromes and catalytic transformations of H2 and O2 by hydrogenases and multicopper oxidases, respectively. Her group designed the first H2/O2 biofuel cell in France.


Dr Magalie Roger

Dr Magalie Roger is a Postdoctoral researcher at BIP-CNRS, Marseille. Coming from a microbiology background, her research covers multi-scale aspects of bacterial metabolism ranging from the characterization of metalloenzymes at a molecular level, to microbial engineering for exploiting microbes as a platform for the bio-based production of valuable compounds. Recently, her research focused on understanding the nature of metabolic interactions between microbes in complex communities, and their implications in shaping microbial communities.

Dr Nicolas Vita

Dr Nicolas Vita is a CNRS researcher who recently joined the group « Cellulosomes and plant polymers degradation » LCB, CNRS. His major interests are related to lignocellulosic material degradation by the model anaerobic microbe Ruminoclostridium cellulolyticum, with a special emphasis on the depolymerization of the lignin component. He is also interested in the development of biotechnological applications in biofuel and commodity chemicals sectors. He is co-author of 15 peer-review articles and has 1 patent application.

Applicants interested in the course are invited to send their CV and a short statement in English specifying the reasons for their interest in the course to Prof. Amel

Candidates will be notified of the decision on 5 May 2021.

Point of contact for additional question/information:


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