Next Generation: Abdulmajid (Majeed) Alrefaie

February 3, 2023

Advisor: Dr. Yantao Li, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

What is the focus of your research?
I am working to understand the processes that microalgae undergo that result in byproducts used in biofuel, bioremediation and pharmaceuticals. Specifically, I want to better understand the processes by which microalgae are breaking down acetate, a specific carbon molecule, and how to maximize the outputs of its byproducts, a topic of great significance to the algal biotechnology industry.

How will it make a difference?
This research is important because little is known about how algae break down acetate in conditions without oxygen. By better understanding this process, algae could be used more efficiently for biofuels and bioremediation, which can help reduce carbon footprints, improve air quality and clean up water sources. Overall, this research is crucial as it has the potentialto support sustainable large-scale production of biofuels with lower process costs, risks of contamination, and reduction in production time. 

Why did you choose to study at UMCES? 
I chose UMCES because of its unique environment. Beyond creating a great learning environment, UMCES encourages opportunities outside the classroom, professionally and socially. It is a place that empowers you to do great science, fosters your leadership skills, and connects you with the world. For example, I had the opportunity to participate in the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneur Fellow (REEF), a program that enables environmental science graduate students to apply their research to real-world problems. Also, serving a co-chair on the Graduate Student Council is another excellent opportunity for me to advocate for young adults.

What is an experience that stands out most to you about your time at UMCES?
My first impression is the atmosphere of UMCES. Being surrounded by supportive people motivates you to do your best and help everyone who needs help. 

What influenced your career path in science?
I was raised in a well-educated family that shaped my personality and love of science. Both of my parents are teachers who set a great example for me to follow and inspired me to realize my full potential. My childhood experience aroused my early interest not only in studying and getting high degrees but also to be specialized in a field that protects and improves people’s daily lives. I was always interested in things not easily seen by the human eye alone, from the stars illuminating across our skies to the microscopic organisms surrounding us everywhere we go. Eventually, I chose to go with the microscope rather than the telescope as my main tool to dive into my journey in the world of microbiology.

Do you have advice for kids in the next generation who are interested in STEM fields?
Luckily, we live in a world of advanced technologies, and many great online resources are available with one click. Take advantage of these resources.

What is the most important thing people can do to help the environment?
Each one of us has the influence to do various things to help the environment, such as consuming less and volunteering in cleanups; however, I believe the most important thing is to keep educating and learning about our planet which eventually would tell us what to best do.

Have you received a scholarship, grant, travel award or gift from a donor? What did it allow you to do and why was that important? 
I am grateful to receive a scholarship from King Saud University to help me pursue my doctoral degree.

When do you anticipate earning your degree?
December 2025.

What are your future plans?
I enjoy teaching, and one day, I would like to be a university professor and start my own lab.