Dr Jim Gilmour

Senior Lecturer

Tel: 0114 222 4412


Research Precis

ChlamyProduction of Biofuels and other useful products from microalgae (including cyanobacteria)

My initial training at PhD and postdoctoral level was in algal physiology and biochemistry using the extremophilic microalga Dunaliella to examine the effect of salt stress on photosynthesis. On obtaining my lectureship at Sheffield, I continued to work with microalgae, but gradually I moved more into the field of bacterial growth in extreme environments. During the 1990s, I was Deputy Head of Department and Director of Undergraduate Studies, but I always maintained a research laboratory with at least one PhD student. In 2000, I moved back into research and retrained in molecular biology techniques and since 2005, I have supervised 8 PhD students studying microbial biodiversity in extreme environments. I have recently started to adapt the molecular biodiversity techniques used for bacteria (16S rDNA sequencing, specialised gel electrophoresis methods) for use with microalgae. My expertise in molecular biology techniques coupled with my long term experience of growing microalgae are the basis of my current research into biodiesel production by microalgae. I have collaborations with colleagues in the Engineering Faculty, in particular with Prof Will Zimmerman on using microbubbles to grow microalgae more efficiently. Two further review papers are in press and we have received funding from the Technology Strategy Board (£150k) and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (£33300). Very recently, funding has been awarded by DECC to Carbon Sequestration Ltd as part of CCS Innovation programme and my laboratory will receive £35K of this award. The microalgal research group in my lab consists of six PhD students (four of whom are jointly supervised with colleagues in Engineering).

Research Keywords

Microbiology, microalgae, cyanobacteria, biofuels

I welcome applications from self-funded prospective home and international PhD students; see examples of possible projects below.

You can apply for a PhD position in MBB here.

Contact me at for further information.

Investigating Photosynthesis in Nannochloropsis – An Important Algal Genus for Biofuel Production

One of the key insights from phylogenetic studies of eukaryotic microorganisms is the enormous diversity within the microalgal group with green algae being similar to plants and other groups such as diatoms being very different. The Eustigmatophytes (which include Nannochloropsis) are another group of microalgae which differ enormously from green algae/plants. It is highly likely that the detailed mechanisms of photosynthesis will operate very differently in Nannochloropsis when compared to a model green alga such as Chlorella or Chlamydomonas species. The proposed project will build on existing work in my lab on using Nannochloropsis to produce high levels of triacylglycerols for biodiesel. Ways of improving the photosynthetic efficiency of Nannochloropsis would help to make biodiesel production more cost effective and new insights into the mechanisms of photosynthesis in this unusual group of microalgae will add to our fundamental knowledge of photosynthesis.


Level 3 Modules

MBB303 Cells as Factories (Module Coordinator)
MBB340 The Microbiology of Extreme Environments (Module Coordinator)
MBB362 Biochemistry Data Handling
MBB363 Genetics Data Handling
MBB364 Microbiology Data Handling

Level 2 Modules

MBB263 Microbiology 2
MBB265 Practical Molecular Bioscience 2

Level 1 Modules

MBB163 Microbiology (Module Coordinator)
MBB165 Practical Molecular Bioscience 1

Career History

Career History

  • 1998 - present: Senior Lecturer in Microbiology, University of Sheffield
  • 1985 - 1998: Lecturer in Microbiology, University of Sheffield
  • 1984 - 1985: Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Liverpool
  • 1983 - 1984: NATO Research Scholarship, Universitat Wurzburg, West Germany
  • 1979 - 1982: PhD – University of Glasgow

Honours and Distinctions

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology


Journal articles


  • Gilmour DJ (2019) Chapter One - Microalgae for biofuel production In Gadd GM & Sariaslani S (Ed.), Advances in Applied Microbiology (pp. 1-30). Elsevier View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Ross AB, Budarin V, Biller P, Riley R, Clark J, Jones JM, Gilmour DJ & Zimmerman W (2011) Hydrothermal microwave pyrolysis of microalgae In Bridgwater AV (Ed.), Proceedings of the bioten conference on biomass, bioenergy and biofuels 2010 (pp. 647-653). Berkshire, UK: CPL Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Conference proceedings papers

  • Romero-Gonzalez ME, Nwaobi B & Gilmour J (2009) Extremophile bacteria: Ultimate sink for U(VI) from contaminated mine water?. GEOCHIMICA ET COSMOCHIMICA ACTA, Vol. 73(13) (pp A1115-A1115) RIS download Bibtex download