Postdoctoral Fellows and Students


JPL's BPP Group includes more than 15 scientists, engineers, and technicians, who are researchers and flight project implementation specialists. To support research and flight implementation tasks, the group supplements the workforce throughout the year with postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students. Collectively, the group has extensive expertise in planetary protection implementation, research and technology development, microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, classical and molecular microbial taxonomy, physics, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, probability analysis, research design, biosensor technology, biomedical engineering, and space instrument engineering.

Camilla Urbaniak  |  Postdoctoral Scholar

Program: NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP)

Camilla obtained her Hon. B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and went on to study the mucosal immune system at McMaster University where she earned her M.Sc. After working for a few years as a clinical research associate in pediatric gastroenterology, she started her PhD at the University of Western Ontario to study the mammary gland microbiome and how changes in milk microbes and breast tissue microbes impact female health, such as the risk of breast cancer development.

As an NPP fellow, Camilla is studying how space travel affects the microbiome of astronauts and the implications of these microbial changes on the health of these individuals. As part of her work, she is analyzing the microbiome of various body sites collected from crew members aboard the ISS. She is also involved in characterizing the microbiome of extreme built environments and how these bacterial and fungal communities impact the (i) health of the inhabitants and the (ii) structural integrity of its infrastructure.

Jason Wood  |  Postdoctoral Scholar

Program: NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP)

Dr. Jason Wood is a microbial ecologist with an interdisciplinary background that emphasized systems biology. He received his B.S. in Biology with a minor in Computer Science, and later his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Sciences from Montana State University. His graduate research involved understanding microbial speciation of thermophilic cyanobacteria living in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park using his skills in computer programming, bioinformatics, and biostatistics. Since joining the Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group at JPL, he has been involved in studying microbial communities of extreme built environments like the International Space Station, the JPL Spacecraft Assembly Facility, and radiotrophic fungi originally isolated from the failed block at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Snehit Mhatre  |  Postdoctoral Scholar

Program: NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP)

Snehit is a highly motivated, independent researcher with a strong background in molecular microbial ecology and microbiology. He is interested in working on understanding the low fungal diversity (2% of total cleanroom microbial diversity) in NASA Space-Craft assembly clean rooms and the reasons for their survival in such low energy and nutrient conditions. He is also working on testing a microgravity water concentration system to monitor microbial load in drinking water on board ISS. Another project that he is currently involved in studying the effect of microgravity on the microbial diversity of rodents by comparing ground and onboard ISS rodent fecal samples.

CL#: 17-1953, 18-1585

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