People

Dr. Eduardo Almeida

Dr. Almeida's laboratory's research focuses on the question of how spaceflight factors, microgravity and space radiation, affect the ability of adult stem cells to perform normal tissue repair and regeneration. Specifically the researchers hypothesized, and observed, that spaceflight factors alter the normal growth and differentiation of somatic stem cells, resulting in abnormal patterns of tissue regeneration. The laboratory uses both ground-based and spaceflight experimental molecular, cell, and tissue approaches to study stem cell and regenerative health in space, including experiments on the Russian Foton M2 and M3 missions with newts and geckos, and on STS131 with cultured mouse embryonic stem cells, and tissues from mice flown in space. Ongoing work is focused on ground investigations of hypergravity effects on regeneration in newts and stem cells, and on preparations for participation in the STS133 mission Mouse Immunology II Biospecimen Sharing Program (BSP), and Bion M1 BSP.

Dr. Sharmila Bhattacharya

Dr. Sharmila Bhattacharya

Dr. Sharmila Bhattacharya directs research in the Biomodel Performance Laboratory in the Space Biosciences Division at NASA Ames Research Center. Bhattacharya and her team are interested in the molecular biological, genomic, proteomic and physiological changes in organisms in response to stressful and novel environments such as those imposed by space flight. Dr. Bhattacharya has conducted space flight and ground experiments to analyze the effects of altered gravity environments and space-like radiation on simple biological organisms. Bhattacharya was the Principal Investigator for a shuttle flight experiment that flew on the mission STS 121. Sharmila Bhattacharya’s training in molecular biology and genetics and experience with the biological effects of the space environment on model organisms are key factors in her interest in synthetic biology and the utilization of such techniques to explore survival strategies of organisms in the space environment. Sharmila Bhattacharya earned her Master’s and PhD degrees in Molecular Biology at Princeton University, followed by post-doctoral research in Neurobiology at Stanford University.

Dr. David Bubenheim

Dr. David Bubenheim is a research scientist working in the Biospheric Science Branch at Ames Research Center. He is a plant physiologist studying the ecophysiology of biological systems in synthetic and natural ecosystems. Areas of study include both human exploration of space and ecosystem function on Earth. He has developed plant-based regenerative life support systems and studies plant growth and development in the microgravity of space. With focus on earth science he studies environmental toxicity and bioremediation, plant response and adaptation to climate change, and invasive plant species impact on ecosystem functions. He is particularly interested in the mechanisms controlling resource use efficiency in biological system. Bubenheim is a Sigma Xi distinguished national lecturer and has received the best new technology of the year award from R&D magazine. He works closely with the US Department of Agriculture to link ecophysiology, simulation models and remote sensing methods to develop a landscape-scale, ecosystem assessment system for the western US.

Dr. Jacob Cohen

Dr. Jacob Cohen

Dr. Jacob Cohen is currently the Chief Scientist for the International Space Station (ISS) Utilization Office, the Deputy Division Chief (Acting) for the Mission Design Division and the Director of the Ames Biology Office within the Engineering Directorate, at NASA Ames Research Center. He is responsible for developing short and long term goals, acquiring funding and personnel, and implementing new biology based opportunities. Dr. Cohen also works with the Mission Development Division, the NanoSatellite Mission Office, and other directorates and divisions to develop small spacecraft utilization and application strategies. As part of his interest in the utilization of space for international, commercial and educational advancements, Dr. Cohen leads and coordinates the development of international collaboration opportunities in the Small Spacecraft Class of vehicles and the development of commercial and educational biology, ISS and small spacecraft opportunities. Dr. Cohen received a Ph.D. from New York University.

Dr. John Cumbers

John Cumbers

John Cumbers received his Ph.D in the Graduate Program in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry at Brown University, Providence, RI. He has been working at NASA Ames since 2008 looking at the mechanisms of radiation resistance and cold tolerance in Antarctic cyanobacteria. John did his undergraduate in software engineering at the University of Hull and his MSc in bioinformatics from the University of Edinburgh both in the UK. John studies synthetic biology in extremophiles and works on the phylogenetics of radiation resistant Antarctic cyanobacteria. He is also interested in foundational synthetic biology and tools that make biology easier to engineer. At Brown, John founded the Brown iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) competition team in 2006. In 2007 he designed and taught the undergraduate class “Synthetic Biological Systems” and developed ideas to design organisms for biological in situ resource utilization in space.

Dr. Tori Hoehler

Dr. Tori Hoehler

Dr. Tori Hoehler studies microbial ecology in a variety of natural environments, with a particular interest in relating biological activity and population dynamics to environmental energetics. This interest is manifest in work to: understand and quantify the biological requirement for energy; develop methods for characterizing energy availability and transduction with reference to power (not just Gibbs energy); and develop quantitative, energy-based metrics for habitability. Hoehler's group also has a focus on high sensitivity environmental measurements of dissolved gases and fermentation products, and rates of terminal respiration. Active or proposed work includes studies in hypersaline microbial mats, subsurface serpentinizing systems, terrestrial hot springs, and aquatic sediments.

Dr. John Hogan

Dr. John Hogan

Dr. John Hogan is an environmental scientist in the Bioengineering Branch at NASA Ames Research Center, where he supports NASA’s Life Support and Habitation Systems Program. His major research interests include developing biological and physico-chemical technologies for regenerative air, water and solid waste treatment systems, food production, and systems analysis. Selected projects include the development of optimized biological solid waste reactors/simulators, biological air filtration, and the capture and compression of carbon dioxide. He is also investigating the application of closed-loop life support principles to forward sustainable practices in terrestrial systems. Prior to joining NASA, he was research faculty at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in the Department of Environmental Sciences, where he participated in a NASA funded program developing biologically-based, sustainable systems for long-term extraterrestrial human habitation. John received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University.

Dr. David Loftus

Dr. Loftus is a physician-scientist at NASA Ames with a basic science background in chemistry, cell biology, biophysics, bio-nanotechnology, radiation biology and materials science, and a medical background in hematology, oncology and vascular medicine. Within the field of synthetic biology, Dr. Loftus is interested in the interaction of planetary materials with biological systems, novel methods for cell signaling, gene therapy, stem cell therapy and other medical applications. Dr. Loftus is especially interested in encapsulation technologies and other approaches to implantation of synthetic biology elements into the body, for both space medicine and terrestrial medical applications. Dr. Loftus graduated from Pomona College (Chemistry), and completed both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University, St. Louis (Molecular Biology). Dr. Loftus received his training in internal medicine and hematology at Stanford University.

Dr. Rocco Mancinelli

Dr. Rocco Mancinelli

Dr. Rocco Mancinelli, is a microbial ecologist/astrobiologist at NASA Ames since 1984, affiliated with the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute. He has a Ph.D. in microbial ecology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research is broad encompassing ecology, physiology, biogeochemistry, and biodiversity. The common thread that ties his research projects together is the search for the definitive environmental limits in which life can arise and evolve in a planetary context. His research has lead him to design and develop bioreactor systems for understanding the relationship between microbes and their environment. Of particular interest is understanding how genetically modified organisms interact with other organisms and their environment using bioreactor systems. Mancinelli has participated in several flight experiments with microbes on both satellites (e.g., BioPan) and ISS (e.g., EXPOSE R and E). Mancinelli is a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and the Explorers Club.

Dr. Chad Paavola

Dr Chad Paavola

Dr. Chad Paavola is a researcher in the Bioengineering Branch of the Space Biosciences Division. His work is focused on protein engineering for biotechnology and bionanotechnology. He has most recently led a team in developing engineered multi-enzyme assemblies for efficient breakdown of cellulosic biomass. This technology may be utilized both in conversion of non-edible biomass to fuels and chemicals on earth and for recovery of value from crop waste in future long-duration space exploration. Dr. Paavola has also worked on protein-based templates for nanoscale templating of metal and semiconductor particles, as well as developing protein-based sensors for detection of small-molecule biomarkers in extraterrestrial environments. Before his arrival at Ames Research Center in 2001, Dr. Paavola was a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University. He holds a Ph. D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley and a B. S. in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Andrew Pohorille

Dr. Andrew Pohorille

Dr. Andrew Pohorille directs the NASA Center for Computational Astrobiology. His main interests related to synthetic biology are focused on computational design and evolution of novel proteins and simple cell-like systems, modeling genetic and metabolic networks and microbiology in space environments. He leads a team that develops miniaturized, automated instrument for measuring gene expression on small satellites. Andrew received Ph.D. in biophysics from University of Warsaw. He did his postdoctoral training at the institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique in Paris. Since 1992 he has been professor of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California San Francisco. In 2002 he was awarded Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal. He is also the recipient of the 2010 NASA H. Julian Allen award. In 2000 and 2009 he received NASA Group Awards for his contributions to astrobiology. He co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Sigrid Reinsch

Dr. Sigrid Reinsch

Dr. Sigrid Reinsch is a cell biologist in the Radiation and Space Biotechnologies Research Branch and also works very closely with investigators in the Bioengineering Branch. Currently Sigrid is a scientist on the OMEGA (Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae) project. The OMEGA project mission is to design and build a prototype marine photobioreactor to grow freshwater algae biomass using wastewater as a source of nutrients for algae growth, flue gas as a source of CO2 for photosynthesis, and mixing and temperature control provided by the wave action and the ocean environment. Recently, she also worked on a cellulosic biofuels project. Sigrid has expertise in cell, developmental and molecular biology and advanced light microscopy. Sigrid received her B.A. in Biology from the UCSC and a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from UCSF. She did post-doctoral training at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.

Dr. Lynn Rothschild

Dr. Lynn Rothschild

Dr. Lynn Rothschild, is an evolutionary biologist/ astrobiologist at NASA Ames, and Professor at Stanford and Brown University, where she teaches Astrobiology and Space Exploration. She has broad training in biology, with degrees from Yale, Indiana University, and a Ph.D. from Brown University in Molecular and Cell Biology. Since arriving at Ames in 1987, her research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment, both here and potentially elsewhere.. Field sites range from Australia to Africa to the Andes, from the ocean to 100,000 feet on a balloon. In the last few years Rothschild has brought her expertise in extremophiles and evolutionary biology to the field of synthetic biology, addressing on how synthetic biology can enhance NASA’s missions. Rothschild is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, the California Academy of Sciences and the Explorers Club.