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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Trenton (Trent) Smith is an Associate Professor of Biology at Simpson University in Redding, California. He received his Ph.D. in the lab of Dr. Vicki Vance at the University of South Carolina in 2001, studying viral suppression of RNA interference in plants. Specifically, he generated and studied suppression of RNAi in transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana expressing the helper component proteinase from Turnip Mosaic Virus. In early 2018, Dr. Smith joined with the lab of Dr. Karen McDonald and Dr. Somen Nandi at UC Davis, as a visiting scientist. He is designing systems to express cell wall-degrading enzymes in potato, as part of the biofuels work of CUBES.