Lance C. Seefeldt is Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Utah State University. He received his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of California at Riverside and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Metalloenzyme Studies at the University of Georgia. He joined the faculty at Utah State University in 1993. He is the recipient of the D. Wynne Thorne Research Award and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the Utah State University Institutional PI and lead of the Microbial Media and Feedstock Division of CUBES.
Dr. Seefeldt’s research focus is on biological nitrogen fixation. He has been investigating the mechanism of activation of N2 by the bacterial enzyme nitrogenase. This work has recently lead to the insight that metal-hydrides are central to the reduction of N2 to NH3. He is also investigating how to grow nitrogen fixing bacteria with electrodes as a way to accomplish light-driven reduction of N2 and CO2 as a way to capture and make available these resources from the Martian atmosphere.
Bruce Bugbee is Professor in the Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate at Utah State University. He received his PhD from Penn State University and his MS from the University of California at Davis. He joined the faculty at Utah State University in 1981.
Dr. Bugbee uses controlled environments to examine plant-environment interactions. His research has included phytoremediation, algal biofuels, photobiology, and plant water relations. His career has been guided by the idea that teaching is the highest form of understanding. He has mentored 33 graduate students, eight of whom are now on the faculty at other universities. He was awarded the Utah Governor's Medal for Science in 2012, the D. Wynne Thorne lifetime research achievement award in 2016, and the Distinguished alumni award from Penn State University in 2017. He recently gave a TEDx talk titled, “Turning water into food.”
Derek F. Harris is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Seefeldt group at Utah State University. He received a B.S. in biology from Dixie State University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Utah State University.
Dr. Harris is interested in the mechanism and evolution of nitrogenase enzymes, as well as applications of nitrogenases unique catalytic properties.
Brendan obtained a B.S. in Horticulture from the University of Georgia in 2017 and graduated in 2019 with a dual M.S. in Crop and Soil Science and Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Georgia and Università degli Studi di Padova, respectively. He is presently working toward completion of a Ph.D. in Plant Science at Utah State University's Crop Physiology Laboratory. His graduate research work encompasses photobiological studies and development of novel resource supply, monitoring and control approaches for the plant root-zone in microgravity that are capable of sustaining multiple, successive plant generations.
Mackenzie Jones received her B.S. in Botany from Utah Valley University. She is currently a graduate student at Utah State University working in the Crop Physiology Laboratory in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Plant Science. Her interests of study include plant nutrition, soil fertility, and nutrient cycling. For the CUBES effort, Mackenzie's research will focus on optimizing plant nutrition in controlled environments for long-term space travel.
Noah received a double B.S. in Biochemistry and Biology from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point in 2020. He is currently pursuing a Ph. D. in Plant Science as a graduate research assistant in the Crop Physiology Lab at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Noah's interests include optimizing hydroponics systems and plant nutrition for efficient production in closed systems. Outside of CUBES, he enjoys backpacking, geocaching, and flying general aviation airplanes.
David Merkley is an undergraduate student at Utah State University in his Junior year. He is studying computational mathematics and pre-med. David is from Centerville, Utah and has 3 brothers. When he is not studying for school, you can find David either wakeboarding or skiing the slopes.
David has always wanted to help out other people, which is one reason that led to him towards becoming a physician. David has always said that he wanted to feel like he was helping to make a difference in the world. Another reason is that the human body fascinated him. Wondering how medications interacted with the cells, enzymes, and other elements of the body was something that was always a question for him. He wanted to understand more about the human body and how all of the different parts worked in unison.
One way that you could describe David would be, welcoming and hilarious. He is genuinely concerned with others surrounding him and wishes the best for them. He can always make someone smile, even when they're having a rough day. Individuals seem to feel at ease around him.
Lauren Payne is a second year undergraduate student at Utah State University studying Plant Science. She interns at the USU Crop Physiology Lab, assisting graduate students with experiments involving plant growth conditions. In CUBES, she aids Noah Langenfeld with projects in nitrogen recycling and nutrient optimization in hydroponic systems.
Tyler Wallentine is an undergraduate student at Utah State University pursuing Bachelor of Science degrees in biochemistry and biological engineering. Tyler is originally from Meridian, Idaho and comes from a family of nine. He has a passion for space exploration and wants to see the establishment of a Martian colony within his lifetime. He intends to apply his education in engineering and chemistry to help in this endeavor. His interests include chemical engineering, space system development, and environmental biotechnology. He enjoys 3D design and printing, both as a hobby and as a means of accomplishing his engineering goals. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in bioengineering following his undergraduate studies to further progress towards a research career.
Tyler is currently working with the Microbial Media and Feedstocks Division (MMFD) of NASA CUBES. He has been continuing development of an anaerobic photobioreactor for Rhodopseudomonas palustris NifA*. He is also evaluating the effectiveness of R. palustris to utilize planetary base wastewater to grow and perform nitrogen fixation, to maximize in-situ resource utilization.
Tyler is an avid runner, having participated in both track and cross country in high school. During that time, he ran a marathon and has a personal mile record of 4:44. He also boxes in his free time. He enjoys drawing, painting, and graphic design. He also enjoys movies, camping, and writing.
Artavazd Badalyan received a Diploma in chemistry from the Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia and a Ph.D. in analytical biochemistry in the group of Prof. Ulla Wollenberger from the University of Potsdam in Germany where he focused on the bioelectrochemistry of molybdenum hydroxylases and on the development of electrochemical biosensors. He was a postdoctoral research associate with Prof. Shannon Stahl at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the field of organic electrochemistry where he developed a novel bioinspired electrocatalyst system for the low-potential alcohol oxidation. Following a position at the Draegerwerk AG as a project leader in the field of electrochemical sensors, he joined the group of Prof. Lance Seefeldt at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Utah State University and works on the (bio)electrocatalysis for nitrogen fixation.
Anna received her B.S in Biotechnology from National Technical University of Ukraine and M.S. in Microbiology from the University of Oklahoma, where she was a Fulbright Scholar. She got her Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from Utah State University. Her M.S. thesis research focused on characterization of ultra-small microorganisms from anoxic sulfur-rich pond using bioinformatics. For her Ph.D. research, Anna worked with local municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities to improve microbial transformation of organic waste compounds and algal biomass into valuable bioproducts, such as biogas and bioplastic. She also developed a computational model describing anaerobic microbial granulation in the upflow anaerobic sludge blanket reactors.
Anna is currently a postdoc in the group of Prof. Lance Seefeldt at Utah State University and is working on engineering nitrogen-fixing purple non-sulfur bacteria and bioprocess design.
Rhesa discovered her scientific interest many years ago in a high school chemistry class. Her inspirational teacher, Mr. Best—the stereotypical science geek with large bug-eye glasses—taught Rhesa many scientific lessons, but perhaps the greatest was that science is not just for nerdy boys (as her flawed logic thought), it is for anyone.
Currently, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Utah State University, Rhesa can be found at the laboratory bench doing research focused on understanding and harnessing the amazing abilities of microorganisms. Specifically, she studies the microbial transformation of nitrogen (N2) to ammonia (NH3). This process is a critical part of nature as the majority organisms cannot utilize N2 directly, but need it in a form like NH3 for growth and reproduction. The few microbes that facilitate this conversion provide valuable insight into one of the most biologically challenging reactions and may serve as a catalyst for developing systems for sustainable ammonia production on Mars.
In additional to research, Rhesa also serves as a science reporter for Utah Public Radio and plans to pursue a career in science education and/or communication. Her excitement for not only doing science, but communicating it just might stem from growing up doing musical theater, which she loves. She also enjoys experiencing other cultures, and hot-potting is always on her list of things to do (and yes, it’s partly to see the beautiful microbial mats)!
Mathangi Soundararajan is a PhD candidate from India currently at Utah State University advised by Lance Seefeldt. She has also been awarded the Presidential Doctoral Research Fellow by Utah State University. She majored in biotechnology in her high school, and went on to get her Bachelors in Biomedical Sciences from Sri Ramachandra University. In her junior year, she was awarded the Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship by Sri Ramachandra University to study the effects of dairy intake on inflammatory biomarkers in people with Type 2 Diabetes. She also worked as a Research Assistant at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences during her final year, where she studied the genetic susceptibility of Type 2 Diabetes patients to colorectal cancer using bioinformatics methods. Graduating at the top of her batch, she was awarded the 'Best Outgoing Student' medal as well. Her current research interest includes understanding and applying biological nitrogen fixation in bioelectrochemical systems. Her undergraduate research experience has also contributed to her interest in understanding metabolism and the effects of derangements in metabolism. When she is not losing track of time in the research lab, you can find her catching up on TV series and Netflixing.
He is currently working as a Researcher with Professor Dr. Lance C. Seefeldt at Utah State University. He received his PhD in Organic Chemistry from Nankai University, Tianjin, China in 2007 and PhD in Biochemistry from Utah State University in 2013. After that, he continuously worked with Dr. Lance Seefeldt as postdoctoral fellow focusing on understanding nitrogenase mechanism with a broad range of interdisciplinary strategies, including biochemical, biophysical, and electrochemical methods. His research interests include metalloenzymes, small molecule activation, and relevant catalyst design and mechanistic studies.
Shuyang is a post-doctoral research associate working with Dr. Bruce Bugbee in the Crop Physiology Laboratory at the Utah State University. Her current research is focused on improving the understanding of whole-plant photosynthetic and morphological responses of food crops to light quality and quantity, primarily under artificial light in controlled environments. She received her PhD from the horticulture department at the University of Georgia in August 2017.