Graham Peers
Graham Peers Curriculum Vitae

My primary research interests are: photosynthetic efficiency, how photosynthesis is regulated in a dynamic environment and algal stress physiology. Researchers in the laboratory employ forward and reverse genetics, ‘omics approaches and detailed physiology to investigate these areas. We are particularly interested how these processes differ across the vast evolutionary diversity of algal and cyanobacterial clades.
I teach a wide variety of courses from general cell biology to a hands-on marine research course in Baja California Sur, Mexico. This reflects the diversity of my training as a scientist (from oceanography to applied molecular biology). I strive to illustrate the Nature of Science through the application of critical analyses and experimental design in my coursework and mentorship.


Andrew Paton

I am excited to be joining the Peers lab as a first year Ph.D. student. My interest lies in how the products and effects of photosynthesis impact algal metabolism and how genetic tools can be used to study and shift that balance. Over the next year I hope to develop a research project that will facilitate and inspire deeper study of this broad concept.


Jeremy Primus

I am a graduate student pursuing a Biomedical Engineering M.E. degree.  I am currently conducting bioinformatics analysis of Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, hoping to elucidate patterns in metabolism and physiology that arise from culture conditions which mimic industrial practices in biofuels production.  I am also working to resequence, assemble, and annotate the genome of a Nannochloropsis oceanica strain isolate.  Both of these projects seek to inform future approaches for bioengineering these species for biofuels production.


Yu Bai

I am working in Peers lab as a postdoctoral research fellow. I’m interested in the photosynthesis-related metabolisms in algae. My previous work was focusing on the characterization of hydrogenase in green microalgae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Now I’m trying to explore the photosynthetic pigment biogenesis in the diatom, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, by applying the efficient and versatile genome editing technology CRISPR-CAS9. The chromatography technique will also be developed and optimized for pigment in vitro analysis. This research will deepen our insight into the photosynthesis.


Maxwell Ware

I am a postdoctoral research fellow in the Peers lab.  My work focuses on the photosynthetic capacity and high-light tolerance of the green algae Desmodesmus, with a goal to engineer this species for improved carbon assimilation.  Other projects also include investigating photoprotective mechanisms and downstream metabolic pathways in Phaeodactylum tricortnutum.  I am more broadly interested in organelle communication during abiotic stress, the evolution of the photosynthetic membrane and primary response mechanisms to light.


Taylor Bailey

I’m an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Zoology with a minor in Environmental Affairs. I’m interested in studying anthropogenic effects on coral reef ecology and am currently working as the undergraduate lab assistant in the Peers Lab.




Darcy Moore

I’m an undergraduate lab assistant in the Peers lab pursuing a degree in Biological Sciences. I am interested in algal applications in biotechnology, renewable resources and sustainable resource management. I first joined the Peers lab as an undergraduate research intern, studying the photophysiology of Desmodesmus armatus algae in industrially relevant conditions alongside Dr. Maxwell Ware.


Julia Kendrick

I’m an honors undergraduate student majoring in zoology. My senior thesis and continuing work is focused on finding nuclear encoded factors that regulate the expression of chloroplast encoded genes in the green algae Chlamydomonas. I use high throughput mutagenesis techniques in concert with a negative selectable marker and antibiotic resistance insertion to generate a mutant library. Mutants generated are characterized using a combination of phenotype screens for light sensitivity, PCR genotyping, and immunoblotting.


Isabella Brandes

My research focuses on cellular agriculture as it relates to synthetically grown meat. Currently I am studying the replacement of Fetal Bovine Serum, a common supplement for cell culture media, with a Chlamydomonas growth media by comparison of the biochemical makeup of FBS to that of the respective algal growth serum. Additionally I hope to test this algal hydrolysate on mammalian cells for growth. 


Alexis Mertz

I am an undergraduate student currently working to develop a thin-layer chromatography technique to analyze pigments in Phaeodactylum tricornutum.


Tessema Kassaw

I earned my Ph.D in molecular genetics from Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina. I am interested in molecular and synthetic biology. More specifically, my research centers around construction and analysis of synthetic gene networks to develop programmable traits with novel applications. Currently, I am developing episome based, gene expression modulation tools for the pennate diatom Phaeodactylum trictonutum and engineering Nannochloropsis oceanica for enhanced carbon uptake.


Laura Hantzis

As a member of the Peers lab, my work is primarily in using genome editing techniques to increase photosynthetic efficiency in green algae Desmodesmus.  I am also screening mutant colonies of Desmodesmus looking for increased photosynthetic capacity and biomass production.


Gradate Students!

  • Dr. Michael Cantrell, PhD 2019
  • Dr. Mike Caballero, PhD 2017
  • Bjoern Andersson, MSc 2017
  • Matt Youngblood, MSc 2015

Post-docs and Research Scientists!

  • Dr. Denghui David Xing – Research Scientist, now Manager of University of Montana Genomics Center
  • Dr. Alexandra Gallina – Postdoc, now at Ogden Junior High
  • Riannah Holmberg – Lab Manager, now at Genecheck
  • Mark Layer – Computer Scientist, now in Soil and Crop Sciences at CSU


  • Katrina Lems
  • Minkyeong Cho
  • Kate Austin
  • Tiffany Wong
  • Gus Waneka
  • Lauren Cole
  • Katie Chaney
  • Yun (Leo) Zhang
  • Rachel Riley
  • Katie Imhoff
  • Jonah Williams
  • Abby Sulesky
  • Allison Ward
  • Elena Michel