Adam Arkin is the Dean A. Richard Newton Memorial Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley and Senior Faculty Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He and his laboratory develop experimental and computational technologies for discovery, prediction, control and design of microbial and viral functions and behaviors in environmental contexts.

He is the chief scientist of the Department of Energy Scientific Focus Area, ENIGMA(Ecosystems and Networks Integrated with Genes and Molecular Assemblies,, designed to understand, at a molecular level, the impact of microbial communities on their ecosystems with specific focus on terrestrial communities in contaminated watersheds. He also directs the Department of Energy Systems Biology Knowledgebase (KBase) program: ( an open platform for comparative functional genomics, systems and synthetic biology for microbes, plants and their communities, and for sharing results and methods with other scientists. He is director of the newly announced Center for Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space which seeks microbial and plant-based biological solutions for in situ resource utilization that reduce the launch mass and improves reliability and quality of food, pharmaceuticals, fuels and materials for astronauts on a mission to Mars. Finally, he is the Co-Director of the Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute, which brings together U.C. Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Scientists with Industry Partners to forward technology and applications for sustainable biomanufacturing.

Division Director

Amor Menezes is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida. He is the Science Principal Investigator of the five-year, multi-university, Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space (CUBES), a NASA Space Technology Research Institute in biomanufacturing for deep space exploration. He also leads the Systems Design and Integration Division of CUBES.

Dr. Menezes' research interests are in dynamical systems theory and control, with applications to the fields of systems biology and synthetic biology. He is an IEEE Senior Member. He was a 2015 Emerging Leader in Biosecurity and a 2015 fellow of the Synthetic Biology Leadership Excellence Accelerator Program.

He was an Associate Project Scientist in the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) at the University of California, Berkeley from 2016 to 2017, and a QB3 Postdoctoral Scholar from 2011 to 2016. He was a Research Fellow between 2010 and 2011 in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan, where he received a Ph.D. as an NSERC Post-Graduate Scholar and Michigan Teaching Fellow in 2010, and a Master of Science in Engineering as a Milo E. Oliphant Fellow in 2006. He graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2005 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering with Distinction, Dean's Honors (top 10%), and the Sandford Fleming Co-op Medal.


Ali Mesbah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California Berkeley. Dr. Mesbah's research interests are in optimization-based systems analysis, fault diagnosis, and predictive control of uncertain and stochastic systems.

Before joining UC Berkeley, Dr. Mesbah was a senior postdoctoral associate at MIT. He holds a Ph.D. degree in systems and control from Delft University of Technology. Dr. Mesbah is a senior member of the IEEE and AIChE. He was awarded the AIChE's 35 Under 35 Award in 2017 for his contributions in the area of systems and process control.

Graduate Student

Anthony Abel is a Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering in the Clark Laboratory at UC Berkeley. Previously, he earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and M.S. in Materials Science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, where he developed solution deposition techniques for inexpensive semiconductor materials. He has previously worked for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where he designed reactors for the sustainable production of hydrogen via photoelectrochemical water splitting. 

Anthony’s research interests lie at the intersection of chemical engineering, materials science, and microbial synthesis. Within CUBES, he will focus on the simulation and design of hybrid bioinorganic reactors and engineering microbes to function optimally within this artificial environment.

In his spare time, Anthony is a mentor for Bay Area Graduate Pathways to STEM, and enjoys reading science fiction and playing squash.

Aaron Berliner is a Bioengineering graduate student in the Arkin Laboratory at UC Berkeley/UCSF. He studied bioengineering, control theory, and synthetic and systems biology at Boston University. In 2012, he began working as a research associate at the NASA Ames Research Center on projects involving 3D printing, bioelectrochemistry, and astrobiology. In 2013, he started as a research scientist in the Life Sciences group of Autodesk Research in San Francisco. At Autodesk, Aaron’s work ran the gamut from bioprinting, software engineering, synthetic virology, and DNA origami until 2016 when he moved back to space biology. Forming a partnership between UC Berkeley, Autodesk, and NASA Ames, Aaron began construction on Crucible, an open-source reactor for space synthetic biology experiments until 2017 when he started as a graduate student with Adam Arkin. He enjoys playing with his Mars-in-a-jar reactors. Aaron helped author the STRI grant that launched CUBES and is an NSF graduate fellow. His alternative scientific interests are terraforming and radiation biology. Aaron likes whiteboards and dry erase markers and dirty models with clean math.

Jithran Ekanayake grew up in Sri Lanka and moved to the United States in 2016 to study biology at Carleton College, MN on a Starr Foundation scholarship. He is now a graduate student in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Florida, where he works with Dr. Amor Menezes and the Systems Design and Integration Division of CUBES to develop experimentally-validated models of space biomanufacturing processes in low-shear modeled microgravity.

Outside of space synthetic biology, he is interested in pararescue, resilience education, and how space exploration could function as a propellant for the peaceful unification of people and nations across the globe.

George earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a M.S. in "Process, Simulation, Optimization, and Control" from the University of Patras (Greece) in 2016 and 2018, respectively. While there, he was a member of the “Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics and Rheology” where his research focused on the rheology and numerical simulation of flows involving complex yield-stress fluids. He is now pursuing a PhD in Chemical Engineering at University of California, Berkeley, working in the “Process Systems and Control Laboratory”. His current research interests lie in learning-based optimal control of complex systems that intrinsically contain uncertainties. As a member of CUBES, he will be part of the SDID, focusing on systems engineering, process modelling, dynamic optimization and control. His motivation for studying Chemical Engineering was his particular interest in mathematics as a high-school student, as well as his enthusiasm in applying scientific principles towards solving real-world problems.

Anya is a graduate student at the University of Florida getting her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering with Professor Menezes. Her interests include the application of synthetic biology for medical use in space to better support human space exploration.

Prior to the University of Florida, she received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University in New York City, where she also competed as the Payload Lead on the university’s rockets team. There, Anya also worked on developing microfluidic devices for cancer diagnostics.

She is originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and in her spare time enjoys painting and arts and crafts!

Undergraduate Student

Alex is a second year Aerospace Engineering student at the University of Florida. He is working under Dr. Amor Menezes in the Systems Design and Integration division. He has been a member of CUBES since November 2018. He is interested optimizing mission parameters to minimize mission costs and increase viability. His work at the University of Florida also includes the applications of model-free control to space missions.

Cameran Casale is a second year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley studying bioengineering. She is currently working with Aaron Berliner in the Systems Design and Integration Division of CUBES. In her time at this lab, Cameran is interested in exploring different biological applications within space systems, such as the utilization of biologically derived materials in the development of nanoscale devices. When she's not in the lab or studying for school, Cameran is usually out playing beach volleyball or bass guitar.

Adam is from Elk Grove, CA, but was born in San Francisco and is well-accustomed to life in the Bay Area. He became interested in engineering when he was very little, building Lego sets and working on home construction projects with his uncle. Not knowing much about bioengineering coming into university, Adam tried learning about different disciplines alongside his initial classes and prioritized gaining skills over hyper-focusing on curriculum, which is where his passion for software engineering developed. His goal is to become a software engineer at a biotech company, so that he can use his programming skills and knowledge of biological systems in tandem to make software and tools that can help the next generation of scientists manipulate and visualize experiments in a more concise and efficient way. Outside of engineering, he loves making art (painting and drawing with any medium he can get his hands on), watching k-dramas and anime, cooking with his friends, and hiking. After graduation, he hopes to travel to places like South Korea and France to learn more about other cuisines and cultures. Adam believes that we all owe it to ourselves to try as many things as possible, so we can find out what we like and don't like to do, and of course where we are exceptional and what needs improvement.

Zain earned a BA in Planetary Science from UC Berkeley. He developed an interest in spaceflight at a young age watching launches at Cape Canaveral. Even as a child he was interested in sustaining human life in space. He hopes to live to see the day when humanity has a permanent Mars colony. On top of his interest in space, Zain has an interest in medicine and hopes to eventually be a physician-scientist. He discovered his interest in medicine after taking biochemistry classes, where he became fascinated by the interconnected chemistry of the human body. In the future, Zain plans to attend medical school and apply in depth knowledge of human biology to space colonization efforts. He joined CUBES just after graduating from UC Berkeley in May 2022. At CUBES, he helps define states for bioastronautics software under Aaron Berliner. In his free time, Zain likes to make music on his guitar and piano, hike, and volunteer with the American Lung Cancer Screening Initiative.

Davian is a second year Berkeley undergrad studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In CUBES, he is working on the interface for space resource modeling software. Davian is also investigating phages in the gut microbiome as part of ENIGMA, and makes vector graphics.

Farrah is a second year undergraduate student studying Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In the past, she did computational biology research at UCSD working on genome-scale metabolic modeling. She joined CUBES in late Fall of 2021 working under Aaron Berliner. Currently, Farrah is working with Davian to create a crew-member model that simulates how crew members consume and waste resources during space travel and extravehicular activity.

Dania Khan is a fourth year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley studying chemical engineering. In CUBES, her work involves the simulation of hybrid bioinorganic reactors. Prior to transferring to Berkeley, she was a student at Foothill Community College and worked on research related to asphaltene aggregation at oil/water interfaces, as a part of the Fuller Group at Stanford.

Isaac Lipsky is a second year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley studying environmental science. In concert with Aaron Berliner, he is working on developing cost-benefit metrics for Mars surface operations. His interests include planetary science and the tantalizing prospect of Martian terraforming.

Nishi is a fourth year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley with a major in chemical engineering and a minor in data science. In CUBES, she is working on using data-driven methods to explore the integrated design and control of biomanufacturing systems relevant to carbon fixation and polymer production. Some activities she likes to do are baking, dance fitness and watching television.

Gretchen Vengerova is a third year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, studying bioengineering. She is interested in applying bioengineering concepts to conservation efforts. Previously she worked at CSU San Marcos, studying the transcriptomics of algae. In CUBES, she is working to study potential loop closure processes in a Martian biomanufactory. In the future, she hopes to use loop closures concepts to decrease terrestrial waste and pollution, but she would also enjoy more opportunities to merge bioengineering with space.

Spencer is a senior at UC Berkeley studying MCB and astrophysics. He joined CUBES in October 2021 and is currently working with Aaron Berliner on an examination of habitability in black hole accretion disks. Outside of astrobiology, Spencer is interested in music and education, and helps direct an organization providing free college admissions prep to communities in the Bay Area. In his spare time, Spencer likes to read, play piano, and game.


Saige Drecksler
Areas of Interest:

Saige is a fourth year at the University of Florida studying Aerospace Engineering. She is working with Dr. Amor Menezes under the Systems Design and Integration division. She is interested in the effects of space travel on biological systems and using alternative solutions to mitigate problems cause by long term missions.

Soumyajit Sen Gupta has been a member of the SDID division of the CUBES since March 2018. Prior to joining the CUBES as a post doctoral research associate with Dr. Amor Menezes, he was a doctoral research scholar at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay since 2012. His doctoral thesis was on integrated plant-wide optimization of microalgae biorefinery, co-producing fuel, food and chemicals. He is a Bachelors' (2010 batch) from Jadavpur University and Masters' (2012 batch) from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur; both these degrees have been in the discipline of Chemical Engineering. His research interests are in the area of systems design, modeling and optimization, renewable energy and process systems engineering.

Avery is a third year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, currently working towards a double major in Economics and Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in developmental genetics. She is interested in how the intersection of her two academic disciplines come together to further the research behind space exploration. In CUBES, Avery is working towards optimizing an elemental balance in a martian biomanufacturing system. Previously, Avery worked at the University of Michigan on research relating to metabolic control in the immune system and the development of new drugs for the treatment of autoimmunity and cancer.

In the future, Avery would like to pursue a career in the biotechnology industry.

Alexander Kamentz

Alexander Kamentz is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering in the SYBORGS Lab under Amor Menezes at the University of Florida. He received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 2019. His research interest is focused around stochastic control theory in the SDID division of CUBES.

Mia Mirkovic is a second-year undergraduate student in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences department at the University of California, Berkeley pursuing mixed-signal processing and circuit design. Her interests include systems modeling and control, imaging, representation theory, modern music technology and history, and radio.

She works with Aaron Berliner on the development of Crucible, an open-source, 3D-printable chamber for space synthetic biology experiments, and mathematical models for Martian in-situ resource utilization for life support, power, and an integrated, multi-function, multi-organism bio-manufacturing system to produce fuel, food, and materials. These models will likely underlie a software package for accelerating mission design and simulation. 

Fengzhe is an undergraduate at Beijing Jiaotong University and now an exchange student at UC Berkeley studying computer science. He is interested in data mining, deep learning and interdisciplinary tasks. In CUBES, Fengzhe mainly works on modeling deep learning methods in dynamic systems. Previously, he worked in a computer science lab at Peking University on an information retrieval and recommender system.

Cindy is a second-year undergrad at UC Berkeley studying computer science. She is interested in applying CS skills to space research. At CUBES, she is working on building object oriented models to simulate and optimize a biologically-driven Mars exploration mission. Outside of academics, she practices Wushu (Chinese martial arts) and goes on spontaneous adventures to the beach.