Biology grad explores algae's potential
There are few students who have had the range of experience that Kyle Lauersen, Artsci’08, Ed’09, MSc’11, has had at Queen’s. By the time he had completed his three degrees, he had started two businesses, worked four jobs, and done research in five different biology labs, taking advantage of field research experiences in Nova Scotia, Oregon, and California. it’s no surprise, then, that this spring he was given an Excellence Grant from the German government to further the work he had done at Queen’s.
Kyle received the grant from the Cluster of Industrial Biotechnology (CLIB) to complete his work at the Faculty of Biology at Bielefeld University. To date, Kyle’s undergraduate and master’s theses focused on plant genetic technologies. His new work in Germany involves examining the genetic optimization of algae for industrial and biofuel applications.
“First generation biofuels, like corn, came under scrutiny due to impacts on food stocks as well as unfavourable energy-input to energy-output ratios,” Kyle says. “Algae represent a ‘third generation’ photosynthetic, biofuel-producing organism because they are easily contained and cultured with little impact on food production.” On the opportunity to work in his field of interest in Germany, he says, “it is very exciting for me, because this is cutting-edge research that is very promising from a theoretical biology point of view, as well as for its industrial potentials.”
For Kyle, there is no secret to his success. “the environment and support at Queen’s is why I am where I am now,” he says. “Although I had to work very hard to get here, the courses, freedom of research interests, strong support from my supervisors, Professors [Virginia] Walker and [Sharon] Regan and my peers all contributed. He recalls with appreciation the process of preparing for the admission interview with the German university. “The Biology profs and my peers were very supportive, with some faculty members sitting through my practice lectures three times!”
But Kyle’s supportive environment and community didn’t end in the classroom. “I worked for Walkhome in my first year and the Tea Room in my second,” he adds. The experiences gave him the chance to work closely with other students and form tight bonds. In addition, Kyle adds, “my work as a sensei with the Queen’s Karate club ensured I maintained a strong community involvement to complement my studies.” He was also a familiar face on campus as a bartender at the Grad Club.
While still a student, Kyle started two businesses. The first was Premium Learning, in which he utilized the teaching skills he acquired through his studies in education and his practice as a martial arts instructor to put together a public presentation guide for the benefit of new lecturers and incoming university students. he would eventually move on to a new project, but not before donating the materials to the Biology 103 course so that first-year students could make use of the tips. (“I’d be happy to donate the materials to the general Queen’s community, and anyone interested can contact me,” Kyle volunteers. His german address is firstname.lastname@example.org.) His second student enterprise, still in operation, is www.geneunique.com. “I got the idea to combine the genetics research I was working on during my Master’s program with my hobby of painting to create gene-unique DNA art. The premise for this business was the use of a client’s DNA to create a real piece of unique art which they could display in their home,” Kyle says.
Now in Germany, Kyle’s in the process of transitioning to his new work. “Although my German is currently quite limited, I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn in a more immersed environment,” he says. He’s looking forward to beginning formal language courses. “My work day is in English,” he remarks, “so I am not finding the transition that difficult. The hardest part was getting my first load of groceries and opening my bank account, and, luckily, I had the help of friends to translate. The transition has been quite smooth.”