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Luke F

- Research Program Mentor

PhD candidate at University of California San Diego (UCSD)


Astrobiology, deep-sea microbiology, environmental microbiology, extremophiles, life in hypersaline environments


I am a 5th year PhD candidate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography studying astrobiology and life in extreme environments focusing specifically on the limits of life in hypersaline environments. Additionally, I use tools in molecular and synthetic biology to better understand the mechanisms of how microbial life in the deep sea persist. My interest in oceanography started in high school where I competed in the Blue Lobster Bowl, a quiz style national tournament. From there, I started research as a freshman at the University of Connecticut studying stromatolites and thrombolites using techniques such as scanning electron microscopy, and analysis of exopolyermeric substance and it's role in carbonate chemistry. I had the opportunity to conduct field work with Professor Visscher, my mentor at the time, on many occasions collecting environmental samples from Green Lake in upstate New York. Through this research, I was able to spend time at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Cape Cod which prepared my well for my current position as a PhD student. Outside of work, I love to pick up on random hobbies such as gardening, mycology, car/scooter, and refrigeration repair. Since I was in high school, I have always enjoyed mentoring and tutoring students in the sciences passing down as much knowledge as I can.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Changes in the microbial community of seawater brines

As seawater evaporates, it precipitates out salts such as halite (NaCl) which can be favorable for specialized microbes such as halophilic (salt-loving) archaea and fungi. However, as brines concentrate with continual evaporation they become hostile for life, and eventually sterile. As the brine concentrates becoming more extreme, what microbes can survive in these environments? This project would explore the changing microbial community in brine environments.

Coding skills

Some R.

Teaching experience

I am currently mentoring two undergraduate students as a PhD student, and tutored during my undergraduate career at UCONN. In high school, I worked as a tutor for elementary schoolers.


Work experience

University of Connecticut (2015 - 2019)
Research assistant
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2017 - 2017)


University of Connecticut
BS Bachelor of Science (2019)
Marine Science
University of California San Diego (UCSD)
University of California San Diego (UCSD)
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Marine Biology

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