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Conferences & lectures

Microorganisms for sustainable food: from Earth to Space

Thursday, September 3, 2020
12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

This event is free



The announcement from SpaceX to launch a crewed flight to Mars in 2024 inspired us to ask the question, “how do we fulfill the nutritional needs of a crew of astronauts on an 80-million-mile, three-year mission to Mars, where there are no grocery stores, farms, or resupply vehicles?”

We want pancakes, with maple syrup, on Mars.

iGEM ULaval and iGEM Concordia are proud to have organized a panel discussion which asks, how can synthetic biology contribute to sustainable production of food in space? 

Come join us as we explore how synthetic biology can harness microorganisms for applications such as to convert undesirable maple syrup to a delectable delight for morning pancakes on the Moon, to help optimize hydroponic systems for long term space flights, and how microorganisms can contribute to establishing permanent agriculture on Mars.  

The panel discussion will be followed by virtual networking at 1pm EDT.

How can you participate? Join the discussion via Zoom or by watching live on our Facebook stream.

Have questions? Send them to



Morgan Irons is the Founder and Chief Science Officer of Deep Space Ecology Inc., a space and agricultural business startup working to solve the challenges of food security on Earth and deep space as we venture out into our solar system. Her work concentrates on “quasi-closed, agroecological systems” for sustainability in extreme environments and long duration space habitation. Morgan is also a Soil and Crop Sciences PhD student in the Lehmann Lab at Cornell University, where her research focuses on microbial- and organo-mineral stabilization mechanisms for long-term sequestration of soil organic matter and carbon. Morgan is a 2020 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, a Carl Sagan Institute Fellow, and a Norfolk Institute Fellow.


Marie Filteau trained as a microbiologist and completed a doctoral degree in food science and technology at Laval University on maple sap microbial ecology in relation to syrup quality. She then pursued postdoctoral studies in evolution and systems biology at the Institute of Integrative and Systems Biology (IBIS). She is now a professor in the Department of Food Science of the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences at Laval University. Her research interests mainly focuses on microbial interactions, both bacterial and fungal, in the context of food quality.


Karen McDonald is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California at Davis. She is the Institutional Co-I for CUBES (Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space) at UC Davis and Division Lead for the Food and Pharmaceutical Synthesis Division. Dr.McDonald and her collaborators apply synthetic biology tools in plants for the development of novel expression systems, as well as applying bioprocess engineering technologies to produce the recombinant proteins (including human therapeutic proteins and biopolymers for materials applications) using whole plants, harvested plant tissues, or plant cells grown in bioreactors. As a biochemical engineer she is interested in translational research and strives to develop novel biomanufacturing processes that are scalable, cost effective, and meet a variety of design constraints. 


This event is part of:

Microbes and cell agriculture for sustainable food production

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