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.

Graduate Student

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.

Angelo D. Bonzanini is a Ph.D student in the Mesbah Lab at UC Berkeley, specializing in learning-based optimal control of nonlinear systems under uncertainty. He received his combined BEng and MEng degrees in Chemical with Nuclear Engineering from Imperial College London, where he worked in the Molecular Systems Engineering group to develop predictive models for complex associating fluids using statistical mechanics.

Angelo’s research interests lie at the intersection of control theory, machine learning, and applied mathematics, with applications ranging from biomedical devices to automated vehicles. As a member of CUBES, Angelo will be part of the Systems Design and Integration Division (SDID), aiming to develop learning-based control strategies for hard-to-model and/or uncertain systems.

In his spare time, Angelo likes to read, exercise, ski, and travel. He is also an aviation enthusiast and a student pilot.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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. 

Dr. Takashi Nakamura received his Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and his B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Tokyo. Currently, he is the manager of Space Exploration Technologies at Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI), and has been involved in numerous R&D programs sponsored by NSF, NASA, DoE and DoD. 

Dr. Nakamura has been developing, with funding from the Air Force and NASA, a unique space solar power system for power generation, propulsion, materials processing, and plant lighting in space. This concept is based on the use of optical fibers for transmission of solar radiation, the concept Dr. Nakamura pioneered in 1976 while he was at Japan's Electrotechnical Laboratory. Dr. Nakamura is an Associate Fellow of AIAA, a member of AAS and Sigma Xi.