© 2016 The Authors In 2010, when the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB) consortium began, little was known about the molecular basis of algal biomass or oil production. Very few algal genome sequences were available and efforts to identify the best-producing wild species through bioprospecting approaches had largely stalled after the U.S. Department of Energy's Aquatic Species Program. This lack of knowledge included how reduced carbon was partitioned into storage products like triglycerides or starch and the role played by metabolite remodeling in the accumulation of energy-dense storage products. Furthermore, genetic transformation and metabolic engineering approaches to improve algal biomass and oil yields were in their infancy. Genome sequencing and transcriptional profiling were becoming less expensive, however; and the tools to annotate gene expression profiles under various growth and engineered conditions were just starting to be developed for algae. It was in this context that an integrated algal biology program was introduced in the NAABB to address the greatest constraints limiting algal biomass yield. This review describes the NAABB algal biology program, including hypotheses, research objectives, and strategies to move algal biology research into the twenty-first century and to realize the greatest potential of algae biomass systems to produce biofuels.