Sara Volz

Sara with her algae-producing experiment, which could lead to better and more cost-effective biofuels! Image from

17-year-old Sara Volz is a young scientist making the next generation of biofuel! She has invented a process that increases the amount of biofuel produced by algae–all from her bedroom!

How? Her project uses artificial selection to pinpoint which organisms are churning out the most fuel. The selection occurs using the pesticide sethoxydim, which kills the algae that produce low levels of ACCase, an enzyme important in lipid synthesis. The remaining algae are able to produce substantial amounts of oil that could make biofuel commercially viable in the future. Sara even took to sleeping with the same light cycles that the algae required to grow, using a homemade lab under her loft bed!

This method helps to bring down the overall cost of algae biofuel, making it a more affordable alternative to gasoline, as well as contribute to efforts in curbing climate change through clean energy production. Her project won the Intel Science Talent Search in 2014!

Elizabeth Marincola, president of the Society for Science & the Public, congratulated Sara, stating: “Sara’s work demonstrates how a young person who is fascinated by science, which she has been since a kindergarten science fair, can work with few sophisticated resources and have real impact on society.”

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