Solar Energy and Renewable Fuels (SERF) Laboratory

The University of Texas at Austin

Lab Members


& Openings


& Equipment


& Directions



& Sponsors


Publications & Patents





Max Darnell (Spring 2009) Undergraduate Researcher

Max researched state of the art and novel solar energy conversion technologies for his undergraduate research project.

Kuok Yuen The (Fall 2008-Fall 2009) Undergraduate Researcher

Kevin’s  undergraduate thesis project focused on regenerative solid state photo-electrochemical cells for generating electricity. Kevin won the UT undergraduate research scholarship in Fall 2008.

Abby Holaschutz (Spring 2009) Undergraduate Researcher

Abby worked on solar resource analysis for storage sizing. He is currently a graduate student at Stanford University pursuing his M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering. 

Hayden Oldham (Spring 2009) Undergraduate Researcher

Hayden worked on solar hydrogen energy storage system for residential applications. He is currently pursuing a medical doctorate degree.

Madhur Atreya (Spring 2009) Undergraduate Researcher

Madhur worked on algae energy technology.

Jay Unni (Summer 2009-Fall 2009) Undergraduate Researcher

Jay worked on design and fabrication micro-photobioreactors for algae experimentation.

James Babyak (Spring 2009-Fall 2009) Undergraduate Researcher

James worked on thermal modeling of photobioreactors and establishment of environmental monitoring system.

Zachary Gil Mata (Fall 2009-Spring 2010) High School Intern

Zack designed and prototypes a 1 liter helical photobioreactor system for studying flashing light effect on algae.

Graduate Researcher Alumni

Andy Edd (Fall 2008-Spring 2010) Undergraduate Researcher

Andy worked on the design and assembly of a solar concentrator for solar thermal power generation applications.

Angel (Bolhouse) Wilman was born in Detroit, Michigan and completed her BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin in 2006.  After two years of industry experience working at Applied Materials, she returned to UT and is currently working toward her MS in the thermal fluid systems area.  She is the recipient of William H. Luedecke Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Engineering. Her research focus was on the rheology of algae slurries and minimization of pumping power in algae cultivation and harvesting.

Angle (Bolhouse) Wilman MS 2010 (Fall 2009-Fall 2010)

Current Position: Researcher at Southwest Research Institute

Current Position: Engineer at Tri-Con Industries, Inc.

Undergraduate Researcher Alumni

Brian Kruelskie (Fall 2009-Summer 2010)

Brian worked on the development and analysis of a liquid piston Stirling engine.


High School Intern Alumni

Ashley Powell (Fall 2010-Spring 2011) Undergraduate Researcher

Ashley completed her undergraduate honors thesis at Solar Energy and Biofuels Laboratory on solar energy capture and conversion with photobioreactor technology.


Alexander Breckel (Spring 2011-Summer 2011) Undergraduate Researcher

Alex worked on the steady and dynamic rheology of algal slurries.

Robbie worked on the development of a liquid piston Stirling pump as a low cost low maintenance pump for energy and agricultural applications capable of using waste heat or solar energy.

William (Robbie) Stewart (Spring 2012) Undergraduate Researcher

James worked on simulating the growth of  Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 using a systems biology model as a function of available photon flux and CO2 flux.

James May (Fall 2011-Spring 2012) Undergraduate Researcher

Keith worked on developing a non-invasive multispectral analysis method for quantifying the biomass concentration of algal biofilms.  He co-authored a paper in which a method was reported for using a digital camera image of an algal biofilm to successfully recover the areal biomass concentration.

Keith Macon (Fall 2011-Spring 2012) High School Intern


Edwin Peng MS 2010 (Spring 2009-Fall 2010)

Edwin Peng  is from Los Angeles and received his Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the California State University, Los Angeles at the 18 years of age. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree in thermal fluids area at UT.  His research focus was on the thermal characterization of  photoelectrochemical cells for producing electricity from solar energy.

Alexander Ross (Fall 2008-Spring 2009) Undergraduate Researcher

Alex did his undergraduate thesis project on developing electrospun photo-anodes for photo-electrochemical hydrogen fuel production.  Alex won the UT undergraduate research scholarship in Spring 2009. He currently has an internship with JP Morgan  Chase in London, England.

Akhil Kulkarni is a Master's student in the Thermal Fluids System track in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He earned his Bachelor of Technology degree from Indian Institute of Technology Madras in 2010. His senior thesis was on climate change modeling. Prior to joining UT, he worked at Credit Suisse (Mumbai), as an investment banking analyst in the Technology, Media & Telecoms team. Akhil studied emulsion transport in porous media driven by evaporative suction.

Akhil Kulkarni MS 2013 (Fall 2011-Spring 2013)

Current Position: Engineer at Schlumberger

Tom Murphy obtained his MS and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering at the Solar Energy and Renewable Fuels Laboratory in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Before joining out laboratory, Tom graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor of Science with Honors in mechanical engineering in May 2009. His senior thesis, “Design of a Handheld Microfluidics Disease Diagnostic Device,” earned him the Domenico A. Ionata Award for creativity and imagination in a senior research project. He is currently the recipient of the William Hogg Endowed Fellowship at UT-Austin as well as the NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium Fellowship. His Ph.D. dissertation, “Artificial Leaf for Biofuel Production and Harvesting: Transport Phenomena and Energy Conversion,” focused on the design, operation, modeling, and optimization of a novel type of photobioreactor that significantly reduces the water and input energy required for algal biofuel production.

Thomas E. Murphy MS 2011, PhD 2013 (Fall 2009-Summer 2013)

Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher at NASA ARC

Current Position: Assistant Professor at Bahcesehir University

Altan Ozkan  Ph.D.  2012 (Spring 2009-Summer 2012)

Altan Ozkan received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering at Middle East Technical University, Ankara/Turkey, in 2006 and he also got his master’s degree in the same field at Technical University Hamburg-Harburg, Hamburg/Germany, in 2008. He was a recipient of Outstanding Academic Performance Scholarship funded by Hanseatic City of Hamburg based on his success during his master’s studies. Since January 2009, he is working on his doctorate degree on immobilized algae photobioreactor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ethan worked on determining the light action spectra of different photosynthetic microorganisms including genetically modified algae.

Ethan Rohrer (Fall 2011-Spring 2013) Undergraduate Researcher

Keith Macon worked on spectral analysis of algal biofilms for developing a non-invasive method of quantifying biomass concentration. He has co-authored two papers in which a method was reported for using a digital camera image of an algal biofilm to successfully recover the areal biomass concentration.

Keith Macon (Fall 2012-Spring 2013) Undergraduate Researcher


Rudy Torres studied the feasibility of using asphalt pavements as solar energy collectors. He also worked on assembling, modifying, operating and validating the operation of a spectrophotometer for measuring the transmittance and reflectance properties of materials.

Rudy Torres (Fall 2011-Spring 2013) Undergraduate TREX Researcher

Kendall worked on bioflocculation and settling of algal cells for designing a more sustainable harvest technology in biofuel applications. 

Kendall Mayfield (Fall 2012-Spring 2013) High School Intern