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Maria Ghirardi

Team Leader

Photo of Maria Ghirardi
(303) 384-6312
At NREL Since: 

Dr. Maria L. Ghirardi is a Group Manager/Principal Scientist at NREL and a Research Associate Professor the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. She received her Ph.D. degree in Comparative Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1988. Since then, she has been involved in both basic and applied research and has had extensive experience working with photosynthetic organisms. Her work at NREL involves photobiological H2 production and covers metabolic, biochemical, and genetic aspects of algal metabolism.

Her team's research accomplishments include (1) the development of the first sustained algal H2-production system; (2) the identification of three enzymes required for the assembly of [FeFe]-hydrogenases; (3) the development of a bacterial system for production of large quantities of active algal hydrogenase enzyme, a major breakthrough in research; and (4) the use of molecular dynamics to create computational simulations of O2 and H2 gas diffusion through the hydrogenase enzyme, which led to the identification of two access pathways for O2 to the catalytic site of the enzyme.

She has just started a new research project involving the development of a catalyst for H2 production inspired by the biological hydrogenase enzyme, in collaboration with NREL's Computational Science Center and with the Beckman Institute in Illinois. The catalyst is being designed to be coupled to a synthetic charge-separation device, in collaboration with Arizona State University.

Dr. Ghirardi has authored more than 50 publications to date and has been featured as an invited speaker in many national and international conferences. Furthermore, her research team's work was the subject of a video by the Discovery channel that aired in 2003 and a video by PBS's Nova that aired in 2005. She was the recipient of NREL's 2003 Outstanding Performance Staff Award, DOE's 2003 Office of Sciences Outstanding Mentor Award, and the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award in 2005. She holds two U.S. patents and has three new patent applications filed.

Selected Publications 

  1. Jorquera, O., A. Kiperstok, E.A. Sales, M. Embirucu, and M.L. Ghirardi. (2010). "Comparative energy life-cycle analyses of microalgal biomass production in open ponds and photobioreactors." Bioresource Technol. (101:4); pp. 1406-1413.
  2. Ghirardi, M.L., S. Kosourov, P.C. Maness, S. Smolinski and M. Seibert. (2010). "Algal Hydrogen Production," M. Flickinger, ed. Encyclopedia Industrial Biotechnology: Bioprpocess, bioseparation, and Cell Technology. Vol. 1, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.; pp. 184-198.
  3. Ghirardi, M.L. and P. Mohanty. (2010). "Oxygenic Hydrogen Photoproduction – Current Status of the Technology." Current Science (98); pp. 499-507.
  4. Eckert, C., A. Dubini, J. Yu, P. King, M. Ghirardi, M. Seibert, and P.C. Maness. (2010). "Hydrogenase genes and enzymes involved in solar hydrogen production," David Levin and Nuri Azbar, ed. State of the art and progress in production of biohydrogen. Bentham Science Publishers; pp. 8-24.
  5. Kosourov, S., M.L. Ghirardi and M. Seibert. (2011). "A truncated antenna mutant of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii can produce more hydrogen than the parental strain." Int. J. Hydrogen Energy (36); pp. 2044-2048.
  6. Ghirardi, M.L., L. Zhang, J.W. Lee, T. Flynn, M. Seibert, E. Greenbaum, and A. Melis (2000). "Microalgae: A Green Source of Renewable Hydrogen." (15); pp. 506-511.
  7. Kosourov, S.A.Tsygankov, M. Seibert. and M.L. Ghirardi (2002). "Sustained Hydrogen Photoproduction by Chlamydomonas reinhardtii – Effects of Culture Parameters." Biotechnol (78); pp. 731-740.
  8. Forestier, M., King P., Zhang, L., Posewitz, M., Schwarzer S., Happe, T., Ghirardi, M.L., Seibert M. (2003). "Expression of two [Fe]-hydrogenases in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii under anaerobic conditions." European Journal of Biochemistry (270); pp. 2750-2758.
  9. Posewitz, M.C., King, P.W., Smolinski, S.L., Zhang, L., Seibert, M., and Ghirardi, M.L. (2004). "Discovery of Two Novel Radical S-adenosylmethionine Proteins Required for the Assembly of an Active [Fe] hydrogenase." J. Biol. Chem. (279); pp. 25711-25720.
  10. Posewitz, M. C.; Smolinski, S. L.; Kanakagiri, S.; Melis, A.; Seibet, A.; Ghirardi, M. L. (2004). "Hydrogen Photoproduction Is Attenuated by Disruption of an Isoamylase Gene in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii." Plant Cell (16:8); pp. 2151-2163.
  11. Ghirardi, M.L., King, P.W., Posewitz, M.C., Maness, P.C., Fedorov, A., Kim, K., Cohen, J., Schulten, K., and Seibert, M. (2005). "Approaches to developing biological H(2)-photoproducing organisms and processes." Biochem Soc. Trans. (33); pp. 70-72.

NREL Publications 

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