Parag A Vaishampayan

Office: 818-393-7025


DAs a staff scientist, Parag manages a multifunctional, multidisciplinary, biotechnology–based laboratory. He has applied his scientific expertise, bioinformatics knowledge and research experience over 15 years to decipher the microbial ecology of diverse and extreme environmental niches encompassing spacecraft assembly clean rooms, ocean, stratospheric air samples, high altitude caves, hydrothermal vents and human gut to name a few. He was instrumental in teaming up with engineers at JPL, industry partners and vendors for developing a sampling and analysis technology for low-biomass environments. His research findings will allow NASA to implement efficient microbial decontamination and sterilization techniques during future spacecraft assembly processes. He is the key bioinformatician of the planetary protection group at JPL. He has successfully managed several multi-institutional research projects as a Principal Investigator and/or Co-Investigator. The results of his research have appeared in more than 40 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters and several (more than 50) presentations.

Research Interests

  • Microbial ecology
  • Bioinformatics
  • Planetary protection
  • Astrobiology
  • Life in extreme environments

Professional Experience

2011-present, Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology.

2015-present, Research Scientist at Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.

2014, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Biological Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

2013, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Los Angeles.

2008- 2010, Postdoctoral fellow, JPL, California Institute of Technology.

2006 – 2007, Postdoctoral fellow, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


2005, Ph. D, Microbiology, University of Pune, India.

1999, MS, Microbiology, Mumbai University, India.

1997, BS, Microbiology, Mumbai University, India.

Selected Awards

Explorer award (2016): For scientific and technical excellence in Planetary Protection, developing innovative molecular approaches and bioinformatics analysis tools.

Voyager award (2015): For outstanding achievements as an international planetary protection ambassador.

Mariner award (2012): In recognition of outstanding contributions in Planetary Protection by generating/writing reports, publications, NTRs and a provisional patent.

Recognition for the creative development of a technical innovation published as a NASA Tech Brief (total 6).

Selected Publications

Bargoma, E., et al. "Differential recovery of phylogenetically disparate microbes from spacecraft-qualified metal surfaces." Astrobiology 13.2 (2013): 189-202.

Barton, Hazel A., et al. "Microbial diversity in a Venezuelan orthoquartzite cave is dominated by the Chloroflexi (Class Ktedonobacterales) and Thaumarchaeota Group I. 1c." Frontiers in microbiology 5 (2014).

Benardini, James N., et al. "Paenibacillus phoenicis sp. nov., isolated from the Phoenix Lander assembly facility and a subsurface molybdenum mine."International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology 61.6 (2011): 1338-1343.

Bengtsson, Johan, et al. "Megraft: a software package to graft ribosomal small subunit (16S/18S) fragments onto full-length sequences for accurate species richness and sequencing depth analysis in pyrosequencing-length metagenomes and similar environmental datasets." Research in microbiology163.6 (2012): 407-412.

Chan, Alfred A., et al. "Characterization of the microbiome of nipple aspirate fluid of breast cancer survivors." Scientific Reports 6 (2016).

Checinska, Aleksandra, et al. "Microbiomes of the dust particles collected from the International Space Station and Spacecraft Assembly Facilities."Microbiome 3.1 (2015): 1.

Cooper, Moogega, et al. "Comparison of innovative molecular approaches and standard spore assays for assessment of surface cleanliness." Applied and environmental microbiology 77.15 (2011): 5438-5444.

De Vries, Lisbeth E., et al. "The gut as reservoir of antibiotic resistance: microbial diversity of tetracycline resistance in mother and infant." PloS one6.6 (2011): e21644.

Friedline, Anthony W., et al. "Sterilization Resistance of Bacterial Spores Explained with Water Chemistry." The Journal of Physical Chemistry B119.44 (2015): 14033-14044.

Friedline, Anthony W., et al. "Water behavior in bacterial spores by deuterium NMR spectroscopy." The Journal of Physical Chemistry B 118.30 (2014): 8945-8955.

Ghosh, Sudeshna, et al. "Recurrent isolation of extremotolerant bacteria from the clean room where Phoenix spacecraft components were assembled."Astrobiology 10.3 (2010): 325-335.

Hartmann, Martin, et al. "V-REVCOMP: automated high-throughput detection of reverse complementary 16S rRNA gene sequences in large environmental and taxonomic datasets." FEMS microbiology letters 319.2 (2011): 140-145.

Horneck, Gerda, et al. "Resistance of bacterial endospores to outer space for planetary protection purposes—experiment PROTECT of the EXPOSE-E mission." Astrobiology 12.5 (2012): 445-456.

Krebs, Jordan E., et al. "Microbial community structures of novel icelandic hot spring systems revealed by PhyloChip G3 Analysis." Astrobiology 14.3 (2014): 229-240.

Kwan, K., et al. "Evaluation of procedures for the collection, processing, and analysis of biomolecules from low-biomass surfaces." Applied and environmental microbiology 77.9 (2011): 2943-2953.

La Duc, Myron T., et al. "Comprehensive census of bacteria in clean rooms by using DNA microarray and cloning methods." Applied and environmental microbiology 75.20 (2009): 6559-6567.

La Duc, Myron T., et al. "Pyrosequencing-derived bacterial, archaeal, and fungal diversity of spacecraft hardware destined for Mars." Applied and environmental microbiology (2012): AEM-01435.

Mahnert, Alexander, et al. "Cleanroom maintenance significantly reduces abundance but not diversity of indoor microbiomes." PloS one 10.8 (2015): e0134848.

Newcombe, David A., et al. "Impact of assembly, testing and launch operations on the airborne bacterial diversity within a spacecraft assembly facility clean-room." International Journal of Astrobiology 7.3-4 (2008): 223-236.

Nicholson, Wayne L., Ralf Moeller, the PROTECT Team, and Gerda Horneck. "Transcriptomic responses of germinating Bacillus subtilis spores exposed to 1.5 years of space and simulated martian conditions on the EXPOSE-E experiment PROTECT." Astrobiology 12.5 (2012): 469-486.

Nilsson, R. Henrik, et al. "Five simple guidelines for establishing basic authenticity and reliability of newly generated fungal ITS sequences."MycoKeys 4 (2012): 37.

Probst, Alexander, et al. "Diversity of anaerobic microbes in spacecraft assembly clean rooms." Applied and environmental microbiology 76.9 (2010): 2837-2845.

Rastogi, Gurdeep, et al. "Microbial and mineralogical characterizations of soils collected from the deep biosphere of the former Homestake gold mine, South Dakota." Microbial ecology 60.3 (2010): 539-550.

Rastogi, Gurdeep, et al. "Microbial diversity in uranium mining-impacted soils as revealed by high-density 16S microarray and clone library." Microbial ecology 59.1 (2010): 94-108.

Shivaji, Sisinthy, et al. "Janibacter hoylei sp. nov., Bacillus isronensis sp. nov. and Bacillus aryabhattai sp. nov., isolated from cryotubes used for collecting air from the upper atmosphere." International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology 59.12 (2009): 2977-2986.

Stepanov, Victor G., et al. "Draft genome sequence of Deinococcus phoenicis, a novel strain isolated during the Phoenix Lander spacecraft assembly." Genome announcements 2.2 (2014): e00301-14.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "Bacillus horneckiae sp. nov., isolated from a spacecraft-assembly clean room." International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology 60.5 (2010): 1031-1037.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "Comparative metagenomics and population dynamics of the gut microbiota in mother and infant." Genome biology and evolution 2 (2010): 53-66.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "Deinococcusphoenicis sp. nov., an extreme ionizing-radiation-resistant bacterium isolated from the Phoenix Lander assembly facility." International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology 64.10 (2014): 3441-3446.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "Description of Rummeliibacillus stabekisii gen. nov., sp. nov. and reclassification of Bacillus pycnus Nakamura et al. 2002 as Rummeliibacillus pycnus comb. nov." International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology 59.5 (2009): 1094-1099.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "Description of Tersicoccus phoenicis gen. nov., sp. nov. isolated from spacecraft assembly clean room environments."International journal of systematic and evolutionary microbiology 63.7 (2013): 2463-2471.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "High-density 16S microarray and clone library–based microbial community composition of the Phoenix spacecraft assembly clean room." Astrobiology 10.5 (2010): 499-508.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "Molecular evidence and phylogenetic affiliations of Wolbachia in cockroaches." Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 44.3 (2007): 1346-1351.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "New perspectives on viable microbial communities in low-biomass cleanroom environments." The ISME journal 7.2 (2013): 312-324.

Vaishampayan, Parag, et al. "Survival of Bacillus pumilus spores for a prolonged period of time in real space conditions." Astrobiology 12.5 (2012): 487-497.

Vaishampayan, Parag A., Pradnya P. Kanekar, and Prashant K. Dhakephalkar. "Isolation and characterization of Arthrobacter sp. strain MCM B-436, an atrazine-degrading bacterium, from rhizospheric soil." International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation 60.4 (2007): 273-278.

Venkateswaran, Kasthuri, et al. "Deposition of extreme-tolerant bacterial strains isolated during different phases of Phoenix spacecraft assembly in a public culture collection." Astrobiology 14.1 (2014): 24-26.

Venkateswaran, Kasthuri, et al. "International Space Station environmental microbiome—microbial inventories of ISS filter debris." Applied microbiology and biotechnology 98.14 (2014): 6453-6466.

Vaishampayan, Parag A., George E. Fox, and Kasthuri Venkateswaran. "Survival of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 in simulated Mars atmosphere in real space conditions." SPIE Optical Engineering+ Applications. International Society for Optics and Photonics, 2010.

Zhu, Dianhui, et al. "STITCH: algorithm to splice, trim, identify, track, and capture the uniqueness of 16s rRNAs sequence pairs using public or in-house database." Microbial ecology 61.3 (2011): 669-675

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