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Michael Seibert

Emeritus Researcher

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Dr. Michael Seibert is a Research Fellow Emeritus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Research Professor in the Environmental Science and Engineering Department at the Colorado School of Mines, Golden.

His current research interests include primary processes of and water-oxidation in oxygenic photosynthesis, structure and function of [Fe]-hydrogenases, molecular engineering of hydrogenases, expression profiling in green algae, and photobiological hydrogen production.

Dr. Seibert received his BS in Physics from the Pennsylvania State University in 1966 and his PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971. Before joining NREL in 1977, then known as the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI), he did tissue culture and fast kinetics research at GTE Laboratories. Dr. Seibert's current research interests include primary processes of and water-oxidation in oxygenic photosynthesis, structure and function of [Fe]-hydrogenases, molecular engineering of hydrogenases, expression profiling in green algae, and photobiological hydrogen production. He has published over 170 papers and review chapters in these fields, and holds 8 U.S. and foreign patents. He has served on numerous scientific review and advisory panels and received several awards in solar energy and hydrogen research. Dr. Seibert has been on the editorial boards of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology and "Advances in Solar Energy" since 1981 and the American Institute of Physics International series in Basic and Applied Biological Physics since 1994. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the American Society for Photobiology, the American Society of Plant Biologists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Biophysical Society.


  • Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 1971. Molecular Biology and Biophysics (Johnson Research Foundation) Departments (1967-1971). Advisor: Professor Don C. DeVault (deceased).
  • M.S. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 1967. Physics Department (1966-1967).
  • B.S. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 1966. Physics Department (1962-1966). Graduated with honors.

Professional Experience

Principal Scientist (1996–2003)

Structure and function of photosynthetic reaction centers, the water-splitting apparatus, and H2-evolving systems. He, along with many colleagues in his laboratory, discovered how to stabilize the photosystem II reaction center for accurate spectroscopic studies, identified the first amino acid ligand to Mn associated with the photosynthetic O2-evolution complex, measured the primary charge separation rate of oxygenic photosynthesis, identified the first assembly genes for an [FeFe]-hydrogenase, increased the O2 tolerance of the algal reversible hydrogenase by molecular engineering techniques for future biotechnology applications, and surmounted the O2-sensitivity problem in Chlamydomonas, demonstrating the production of large amounts of hydrogen for the first time in algae.

Manager, Photoconversion Branch of Basic Sciences Center (1984–1996)

Line management responsibility for photobiology, photochemistry, photoelectrochemistry, synthesis and catalysis, and including H2 production, liquid crystals, advanced batteries, CO2mitigation, pollution abatement, smart vacuum insulation, and electrochromics. Maintained an active research laboratory concurrently during this period that produced 73 publicationssee above.

Photobiology Task Leader, Fuels and Chemicals Division (1979–1984)

Technical responsibility for the Photobiology Group. Researchphotosynthetic electron transport, biophotoelectrochemistry, and biotechnology of H2 production.

Senior Scientist (1977–1979)

Helped define the initial goals and program for the Fuels and Chemicals Division during the inception of SERI. Assembled a group of nine professionals to perform research on photobiological conversion of solar energy.

Colorado School of Mines, Golden CO (2000–Present)

Research Professor, Department of Environmental Science & Engineering. Concurrent position. ResearchMolecular biology of algal hydrogenases. Michael Seibert, Research Professor, Colorado School of Mines.

University of Denver, Denver, CO (1985–2000)

Research Professor, Department of Biological Sciences. ResearchSurface-enhanced Raman scattering as a probe of membrane topography and surface chemistry. Directed graduate student research and serve on several Departmental committees.

GTE Laboratories, Inc. Waltham, MA (1971–1977)

Member, Technical Staff, Exploratory Research Laboratory.
Carried out industrial research in plant biotechnology, including photobiology of organogenesis in plant tissue culture, cryopreservation of plant meristematic tissue, and productivity of agronomic and horticultural crops. Pioneered the application of picosecond fluorescence spectroscopy in photosynthetic organisms.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (1967–1971)

Graduate Research Assistant, Johnson Research Foundation.
Investigated primary energetics and electron transport in bacterial photosynthesis. Discovered the first in situ pigment triplet state in a photosynthetic organism.

E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., Wilmington, DE (1965–1968)

Summer employee, Electrochemicals and Organic Chemicals Departments. Initiated the development of a photo-polymerizable precious metal organic resist material and adapted it for use in fabricating electronic microcircuits by means of a photolithographic process. Trade name, "Fodel". Assisted in the development of a commercial food freezing apparatus.

Academic Experience

Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO (2000–present)

Currently collaborating with Professors Dianne Ahmann and Mathew Posewitz in research areas involving hydrogenase molecular engineering and chlamydomonasgene expression profiling.

University of Denver, Denver, CO (1985–2000)

Thesis advisor for one Ph.D. and two M.S. students. Taught part of "Cell Structure and Function" (Biol. 2120).

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA (1974–1977)

Ran a summer undergraduate intern research program in a cooperative arrangement with the Plant and Soil Sciences Department. Led discussion groups with graduate students in various areas of photobiology and light measurement.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA (1970–1971)

Taught instrumentation and analytical techniques to gifted, disadvantaged high school students as part of the University's HEP-UP Program for Philadelphia high school students.

Graduate school lecturer: University of Colorado (Photoconversion, 1999; Biophysics, 1980; Solar Engineering, 1977), Michigan State University (Plant Physiology, 1978), and Brandeis University (Plant Biochemistry, 1976).

Associations and Accreditations/Memberships

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow, 1999; ASES Representative, Biological Sciences Div., 1979–1982)
  • American Society for Photobiology (Charter Member, 1969–present)
  • American Society of Plant Physiologists (1983–present)
  • American Solar Energy Society (Division Officer and Board Member, 1978–1982)
  • Biophysical Society (1971–present)
  • International Assoc. for Plant Tissue Culture (1972–1982)
  • International Society of Photosynthesis Research (1996–present)
  • Colorado Outstanding Biology Teacher Award Committee. National Association of Biology Teachers, 1992–present
  • Organizer and co-Chair, Clean Energy Session, Genomics: GTL Roadmapping Workshop, May 2004, sponsored by the DOE Office of Science
  • Organizer and Chair, Workshop on Biohydrogen, Molecular Biomimetic Systems, and Artificial Photosynthesis for H2Production, April 22–23, 2003, sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research
  • Member, US-Australian Working Group on Artificial Photosynthesis, August 2002–2003
  • CRADA Partner with Sunlaw Energy Corporation, Los Angeles CA, 2001–2003
  • U.S. Representative, Annex 15 (Photobiological Hydrogen Production), International Energy Agency, July 2000–present
  • Member, Local Organizing Committee, IPS-2000 (Thirteenth International Conference on Photochemical Conversion and Storage of Solar Energy), August 2000
  • Organizer, Annex 15 Experts Meeting, International Energy Agency, NREL, March 2000
  • Chair, Session on "Photosynthesis and the Production of Renewable Hydrogen," 2000 AAAS Annual Meeting and Innovation Exposition, Washington, DC, February 17–22, 2000
  • U.S. Representative, Workshop on BioHydrogen '99 funded by RITE, Tsukuba, Japan, June 22–23, 1999.
  • NIS Industrial Partnering Awardee-Monitored contract in NIS State (Russia) 1997–2000
  • Coordinator, Photobiological H2 Production, U.S. Hydrogen Program, 1995–2002
  • Organizer, Photobiological H2 Production Workshop, Livermore, CA, April 1993.
  • Invited participant, U.S.-Russia Workshop on Photosynthesis, Pushchino, Russia, May 1992, sponsored by NSF and the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Invited SERI/DOE representative to the NASA Aerospace Applications of Bionics Workshop, Kiawah Island, SC, November 12–15, 1990
  • Invited participant, U.S.-Israel Symposium on Photosynthesis and Photoconversion, Jerusalem, June 1990, sponsored by Israel and the U.S. Department of Energy
  • Program chairman, International Energy Agency Conference on Solar Photoconversion Processes for Recycling CO2 in the Atmosphere, March 1990
  • Visiting professor, Biophysics Department, Moscow State University, Moscow, USSR, June 1988, sponsored by Moscow State Univ. and U.S. Dept. of Energy
  • Visiting Scientist, Inst. of Physical and Chemical Res. (RIKEN), Wako-shi, Japan, September–November 1987 Sponsored by the Science and Technology Agency of Japan and U.S. Dept. of Energy
  • Invited participant at the U.S.-Japan Binational Seminar on Solar Energy Conversion (Plant Photosynthesis), Okazaki, Japan, March 1987
  • Chair, Photosynthesis Session, Biophysical Society Meeting, 1985
  • Chair, Electrochemical Aspects of Biological Energy Conversion Processes Session, Electrochemical Society Meetings, 1984
  • Research Fellow, Laboratoire de Photosynthse, C.N.R.S., Gif-sur-Yvette, France, May–Sept. 1983, sponsored by U.S. Dept. of Energy and the C.N.R.S.
  • Co-Chair, Biotechnology and Solar Energy Conversion Session, American Solar Energy Society Meeting, 1982
  • Chair, Alcohol Sources and Uses Session, International Solar Energy Society Meeting, 1981
  • Member, Organizing Committee, Tree Crops for Energy Co-Production on Farms Symposium, Estes Park, Colorado, 1980
  • Member, Local Organizing Committee, Third International Conference on Photochemical Conversion and Storage of Solar Energy, University of Colorado, 1980
  • Exchange Program Member - Project 4, US/USSR Joint Working Group in Microbiology, Riga, Leningrad, Moscow, and Tbilisi, USSR, 1979, sponsored by NSF.
  • Founding Member, Secretary-Treasurer (1978), Vice Chairperson (1979), and Chairperson (1980), Board of Directors (1978-1982), Biotechnology and Chemical Sciences Division, American Section, International Solar Energy Society (now called the American Solar Energy Society)
  • Co-Chair, Biological and Chemical Symposium, International Solar Energy Society Meeting, 1978
  • Co-Convener, Invertebrate/Plant Tissue Culture Session, Tissue Culture Association Meeting, 1975
  • Chair, Photobiology Session, Gordon Research Conference on Lasers in Medicine and Biology, 1974.
  • Member, Tissue Culture Association Committee on Cryopreservation of Plant Tissue, 1974
  • Co-Chair, New York Area Photosynthesis Seminar Series, Rockefeller University, 1972


  • Seibert, M., and L. G. Vaughan (l970) "Verfahren zum Aufbringen von Edelmetall auf Unterlagen und Masse zu seiner Durchfhrung," W. German Patent #2,0l5, 883.
  • Seibert, M., and L. G. Vaughan (l97l) "Photopolymerizable Compositions and Processes of Applying the Same," U.S. Patent #3,6l5,457.
  • Seibert, M., and L. G. Vaughan (l97l) "Composition Photopolymerisable Destines de Motifs de Metal Nobel de Grande Precision, Substrat Portant cette Composition et Procece de Production des Motifs sur ces Substrats," French Patent # 2,042,8l2.
  • Seibert, M., and L. G. Vaughan (l972) "Photopolymerizable Compositions," British Patent # l,260,440.
  • Seibert, M. (l976) "Process for Storing and Recovering Plant Tissue," U.S. Patent # 4,052,8l7.
  • Ghirardi, M, and M. Seibert (1999) "Process for Selection of Oxygen-tolerant Algal Mutants that Produce H2 under Aerobic Conditions," U.S. Patent # 5,871,952.
  • Seibert, M., T. Flynn, and D. Benson (2001) "Method and Apparatus for Rapid Biohydrogen Phenotypic Screening of Microorganisms Using a Chemochromic Sensor," U.S. Patent # 6,277,589.
  • Seibert, M., T. Flynn, and D. Benson (2002) "System for Rapid Biohydrogen Phenotypic Screening of Microorganisms Using a Chemochromic Sensor," U.S. Patent # 6,448,068.
  • Melis, A., L. Zhang, J. R. Benemann, M. Forestier, M. Ghirardi, and M. Seibert (2004) "Photosynthetic Hydrogen by Microalgal Cultures," U.S. Patent pending.


Editorial Responsibilities

  • Member, Editorial Board, American Institute of Physics International Series in Basic and Applied Biological Physics, 1994-present.
  • Associate Editor, "Advances in Solar Energy: An Annual Review of R and D", 1981-present.
  • Member, Editorial Board, Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 1981-present.

Books Edited

"Handbook of Biological Physics" Editing the English translation of this book by A. B. Rubin from the original Russian for the American Institute of Physics (projected completion date, Sept. 2005).

"Tree Crops for Energy Co-production on Farms," (edited with T. Milne, D. Hertzmark, R. Inman, and C. Strojan). Workshop Proceedings, NTIS, 1981.

Awards and Honors

Our discovery with UC Berkeley of a working algal H2-production process was cited as one of the "Top 10 Discoveries of 2000" by Popular Science Magazine and was highlighted in 1000s of articles in the popular press.

  • Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, Elected 1999.
  • Glenn Award, Fuels and Chemical Division, American Chemical Society, 1999-2000.
  • Robertson Symposium Lecturer, Australian National University, Camberra, May 1994.
  • Midwest Research Institute President's Award, 1990.
  • Outstanding Achievement Award. Solar Energy Research Institute, 1988.
  • Chemistry of Life Science Grant. One of 18 winners in a national competition. NSF, 1985.
  • Member, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma XI, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Pi Sigma, and Phi Eta Sigma.