Degree: Ph.D. in Biological Sciences
College: School of Environment, Arts and Society in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education
When David Erwin Berthold set out to find ways to combat the climate crisis, he didn’t expect a billions-of-years-old organism could be part of the solution.
Algae compounds are found in everything from toothpaste to health supplements and alternative sources of fuel. Algae also does a lot of good for the planet by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
Under the mentorship of FIU Professor Evelyn Gaiser, David experimented with different ways to increase the growth rate of algae for mass cultivation. He’s discovered and named previously unknown types and published 27 peer-reviewed journal articles. While working on his doctorate, David also worked full-time as a lab manager and scientist in Dail Laughinghouse’s lab at the University of Florida Institute of Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) research and education center.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Berthold moved to the U.S. when he was 10. Always interested in biology, one of the first gifts he remembers receiving was a microscope. Hair, soil, anything he could get his hands on, he would put under the lens.
After graduating with his bachelor’s in biological sciences from FIU, David had the opportunity to join Miroslav Gantar’s lab at FIU, where he first fell in love with growing algae. After earning his master’s, it was only natural to pursue his Ph.D. to continue his research.
David plans to continue conducting research, growing algae to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide, providing biologically important compounds, and working to combat toxic algae blooms. He’d like to start his own company to grow the algae he discovers. He already has the name — VivAlgae!
By Angela Nicoletti
College of Arts, Sciences & Education
Nominated by Evelyn Gaiser