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, http://enigma.lbl.gov), 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: (http://kbase.us) 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.
Dr. Coleman-Derr received his graduate education at the University of California at Berkeley in the lab of Dr. Daniel Zilberman in the Plant and Microbial Biology Department, studying mechanisms of epigenetic regulation of transcription in the model plant Arabidopsis. He then completed a post-doctoral research position at the Joint Genome Institute in the group of Dr. Susannah Tringe studying the microbial ecology of the root systems of desert succulents; in this role he also served as bioinformatic support on multiple JGI collaborative metagenomic research efforts involving analysis of 16S rRNA tag data from a variety of environmental and host-associated samples. Dr. Coleman-Derr now leads a research team for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, where he aims to improve our understanding of the effect of abiotic stress on the plant microbiome, and to help identify plant growth promoting microbes capable of alleviating drought stress in their plant hosts. Current research involves several projects related to drought stress response in Sorghum bicolor (sorghum), including investigations into the changes in rhizosphere community composition under drought stress, a genome wide association study to reveal host loci controlled by drought tolerance-inducing root endophytes, and a screen of a collection of cereal endophytes for the ability to confer drought tolerance in sorghum. Dr. Coleman-Derr was awarded the USDA’s Scientist of the Year Award in 2017 for his contributions in this area.
Jeffrey Skerker's research focuses on engineering complex traits in microbes using a systems metabolic engineering approach. He has worked on a variety of non-model bacteria and fungi and is particularly interested in developing methods for high-throughput genetics and genome engineering. In the CUBES program, he will help develop Arthrospira platensis (commonly known as Spirulina) as a source of nutrition and medicine. In the initial phase of this project, a basic genetic toolbox will be developed for this organism and then as proof of concept, a two-gene pathway for the production of acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) will be integrated into the genome. Although Spirulina is widely grown at the industrial scale as a nutritional supplement, very little strain genetic engineering has been reported in the scientific literature.
Skyler Friedline received his BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Santa Barbara in 2016. He is new to the fields of synthetic biology and microbial engineering but is motivated to learn quickly and make an impact. He began working as a research associate and lab manager in Adam Arkin's UC Berkeley Lab in 2019. He is interested in the development of microbes enabling closed loop living in space and on earth.
Shunsuke Yamazaki graduated Tokyo University, Japan, where he investigated the mechanism of bacterial lipoprotein transport in the laboratory of Hajime Tokuda. He is then hired Ajinomoto Co., Inc. and joined Research Institute for Bioscience Products and Fine Chemicals, Kawasaki, Japan, where he worked on breeding strains and developing several processes for production of amino-acids and pharmaceuticals. He was currently in charge of investigation of pharmaceutical production using enzymatic conversion process. He became a visiting scholar researcher of Adam Arkin lab at UC Berkeley, CA, USA.
Dr. Nils Averesch is a Postdoc in the Criddle group at Stanford University, California, USA. Before joining CUBES, Nils was the Synthetic Biology Task Lead with Universities Space Research Association as an Associate Scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, USA. He received his PhD in 2016 from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, where he focused on Metabolic Engineering at the Centre for Microbial Electrochemical Systems. He holds an engineer’s degree (Dipl. Ing.) in Biochemical Engineering, from the Technical University of Dortmund in Dortmund, Germany, having graduated in 2011.
Jake hails from the far-away lands of the Midwest. He received his Bachelor's degree in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was introduced to the world of scientific research through the study of the evolution of gene expression regulation in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Upon graduation, Jake began his graduate work in Marine Studies at the University of Delaware where he studied the regulation of energy metabolism in green sulfur bacteria (the Chlorobiaceae). Being a microbiologist that had always admired synthetic biology from a distance, and one that was enamored with space exploration, Jake joined the Arkin Lab at the University of California-Berkeley as a postdoc to pursue applications of microbial engineering to space exploration and colonization. Jake's research interests include environmental microbiology, microbial physiology/systems biology, genetics, synthetic biology, and space bioengineering.
Kyle Sander grew up in Portland, Oregon and attended Oregon State University earning a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. He interned at a Georgia-Pacific Containerboard Mill for a year as an Environmental/Process Engineer, and then went on to earn an M.S. degree in Biological and Ecological Engineering studying life cycle effects of algae production for fuels and co-products. He also investigated rapid sand filtration as an algal dewatering process step and enzymatic degradation of, and simultaneous saccharification and ethanol production from, of algal cell biomass.
Kyle earned his PhD from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville conducting his thesis research within the BioEnergy Science Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Kyle focused on characterizing and engineering regulatory genes and related cellular redox in two candidate lignocellulolytic, ethanol-producing biocatalysts; Clostridium thermocellum and Caldicellulosiruptor bescii. Basic redox metabolism was characterized in C. thermocellum, yielding an expanded view of redox metabolism in this organism, as well as a set of promising redox-active metabolic loci which were targeted in subsequent engineering for ethanol yield improvement done by others. Single-gene deletion mutants of promising regulatory gene targets in C. bescii were generated and screened in bioprocessing-relevant conditions to assess the engineering potential of each gene target. Deletion of a global redox sensing transcription factor (Rex) enabled C. bescii to synthesize 75% more ethanol and allowed us to comprehensively describe the unique Rex regulon in this organism. A genotype-phenotype relationship was identified between the FapR local fatty acid biosynthesis repressor and this organism’s tolerance to elevated osmolarity conditions, a highly complex, bioprocess-limiting, and difficult-to-engineer trait.
Outside of the lab, Kyle enjoys running, reading, rock-climbing, spending time with family and friends, and becoming more familiar with his new Berkeley and California surroundings.
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.
Jeremy Adams is a Ph.D. student in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UC Berkeley, currently working in the Clark Lab. He received a BSE in Chemical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2017. Jeremy’s research interests lie in the intersection of synthetic biology and biochemical engineering, particularly towards the development of sustainable biomanufacturing processes. His work in CUBES involves engineering lithoautotrophic microbes to convert Mars-available resources into useful products, as well as engineering export pathways of those products to simplify downstream separation processes. In his free time, Jeremy enjoys traveling and scuba diving.
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.
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.
Ji Min Kim is a 1st year Ph.D. student in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California Berkeley in the Yang Group. She received her B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Hanyang University in 2016 and M.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Seoul National University in 2018. Her research interest is focused on the CO2 fixation via a semiconductor nanowire-bacteria hybrid system in the MMFD division of CUBES. The system utilizing light capturing high surface area nanowire array and acetogenic anaerobes enables the photoelectrochemical acetic acid production with long-term stability.
Jorge is originally from Chicago where he attended Loyola University Chicago and received his B.S. in Environmental Science with a Chemistry Minor. After his undergraduate studies, he attended Stanford where he obtained his M.S. in Environmental Engineering and where he has continued as a PhD student working with Professor Craig Criddle. His research focuses on biotechnology with an emphasis on efficiently utilizing waste streams to produce biological materials (e.g., bioplastics, biofuels). As part of the CUBES effort, Jorge's research involves identifying organisms that can thrive on the limited amount of resources available for long-range space travel.
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!
Kelly Wetmore is a graduate student in Adam Arkin’s lab at UC Berkeley with over 15 years of experience in microbial physiology and genetics before and during graduate school. She has been instrumental in developing a number of next-generation tools and protocols for microbial functional genomics. Kelly is supporting the CUBES team in applying these tools to optimize the core biomanufacturing microbes in physiologically more-or-less relevant conditions. She is also part of a large DOE environmental systems biology project in which she is developing a new technology to query high-throughput genetic interactions.
Brooklyn Brace is a third year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley studying Molecular and Cell Biology. She has an interest in microbiology and genomics and how they apply to bioengineering. In the Arkin Lab, Brooklyn is currently working in the MMFD division investigating genes important for nitrogen fixation. Previously, Brooklyn worked in a synthetic biology lab at Columbia University working on the development of a multiplexed drug screening platform.
Anderson Lee is a third-year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley studying Bioengineering with a focus on Synthetic and Computational Biology. He is currently optimizing the production of biopharmaceuticals to be utilized during space travel. In previous companies, he has developed an ELISA procedure to determine the concentration of a tumor-detecting drug in biological samples and enhanced a mobile, quick diagnostic machine that scans for viruses. Previous to the Arkin Lab, he worked in Mohammed Mofrad's Cell and Biomechanics Laboratory at UC Berkeley where he used neural networks with backpropagation to predict a virus' host based on the genome of the virus.
In the future, he sees himself using synthetic biology to conquer problems inherent to the nature of space travel. He believes that technology already present in nature and perfected with evolution can be the key to send humans to other planets.
Will is an undergrad at UC Berkeley studying molecular biology and math. He is captivated by the potential of synthetic biology and the application of modern methods of engineering to biology whether in microbes, mammalian cells, or multi-organism communities. In CUBES, Will models and designs microbial communities for agricultural enhancement. Previously, he has worked on metabolic engineering for the production of biofuels and commodity chemicals, directed evolution for the bioremediative degradation of plastic, and microRNA circuits and protein engineering for immunotherapy.
Wakuna is a PhD candidate in the environmental engineering program working with Prof. Craig Criddle. Her research focuses on the microbial degradation of methane in mixtures (biogas and natural gas) for the production of biodegradable polymers called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). Wakuna is interested in understanding the impact these methane mixtures have on microbial communities, the dynamics between the microbial interactions under certain complex conditions, while optimizing the polymer production process and bacterial growth rates. In addition to research, Wakuna is quite passionate about tutoring and mentoring.
Brendan, originally from Austin, TX, is a second-year chemical engineering major with a concentration in biotechnology. His research interest lies in the intersection of chemical engineering and synthetic biology. As a part of CUBES, Brendan is currently working with postdoctoral scholar Jacob Hilzinger to genetically engineer cyanobacteria to produce useful biomass in both Earth-based and Mars-based economies.
Alex Starr is a second year undergraduate at University of California Berkeley with interests in synthetic and molecular biology, applied math, artificial intelligence, and the utilization of biology in space exploration. As part of CUBES, he is working to develop a system for the detoxification and enrichment of Martian regolith using the perchlorate reducing bacterium Azospira suillum PS. Prior to joining CUBES, Alex studied expression of genes related to root growth in sunflowers and worked on understanding the genetic basis of drought-tolerant root phenotypes in maize.