The Salad team is a diverse group of specialists spanning the technology, space and plant industry. The team is committed to working with students and building capabilities for researchers working with plants in space.

Our Team

Chief Technology Officer

Luke graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in Physics. With experience building agri-tech platforms he brings a wealth of knowledge related to data analysis and monitoring technologies.

Director of Operations

Rafael Loureiro is a plant physiologist and a professor of Botany at Winston Salem State University. His work focuses specifically on analyzing plant ecophysiological responses applied to human space exploration horticulture in Lunar and Martian regolith and worldwide food security challenges.

Chief Research Officer

Sam Humphrey is a Masters student, studying controlled environment agriculture at North Carolina State University. Alongside his research, Sam is also a writer for Astrobotany.com, and co-host of the American Society for Horticultural Science podcast. 

Plant Physiologist

Chad is a skilled research scientist with experience in astrobotany, controlled environmental agriculture, photobiology, genomics, and plant propagation. He has extensive experience in the horticultural sciences, management, team building, and enjoy diving into unique and new challenges.

Makayla Destafino


Makayla is a Plant Biology major at North Carolina State University in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Alongside Connor, she has carried out research investigating the growth of microgreens and fungi in lunar regolith simulant as a part of the NASA/ICS Plant the Moon Challenge.

Connor Lamphier


Connor is a Mechanical Engineering Student in the NC State University college of Engineering. Alongside Makayla, he performed lunar regolith research involving fungal inoculation as a part of the NASA/ICS Plant the Moon Challenge.

Communications Lead and Researcher

Annie is a recent graduate from the University of California Riverside’s College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, where she majored in Neuroscience and minored in Plant Biology. Currently, she is involved in various research projects ranging from Artificial Photosynthesis, Liquid Fungal Growth, In Vitro Calli Production, and Planetary Habitability Metrics.

Jill Muszynski


Jill Muszynski is a Biological Sciences major at Cornell University, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Jill is also a research assistant at the Cornell University Plant Pathology Herbarium, preserving fungi and lichen for scientific use.

Toshiro Tokunaga


Toshiro is a sophomore student at Santa Monica College majoring in Environmental Science and Computer Science. His previous experience with astrobotany comes from the NASA MUREP Innovation Tech-Transfer Idea Challenge, where he designed an application for passive orbital nutrient delivery systems that harnesses recycled greywater.

Our Board

Board Member

Dr. Richard Barker is the Chief Data Scientist for Yuri Gravity and a Scientist at the Gilroy AstroBotany research lab with roughly 10 years of experience as a NASA-funded UW-Madison Space Biology researcher, investigating plant responses to spaceflight. He is currently a co-investigator on multiple NASA and CASIS grants, researching the genetic response of plants to stressful environments related to spaceflight. This has resulted in six novel spaceflight experiments on the International Space Station (ISS). As part of the GeneLab project with NASA, he built the TOAST (Test of Arabidopsis Space Transcriptome) database to support the goal of democratizing space life science research (Barker et al., 2020). He was selected to be a representative of the American Academy of Science at the Future Leaders in Space Science Congress in Beijing in 2016-2017 and is currently co-chair of the NASA GeneLab Plant Analysis Working Group (2019-present).

Community engagement and performance art have always been a part of Richard’s life, starting in his youth as a fire juggler at music festivals in the UK. This energy and passion has been directed towards skateboarding, snowboarding, breakdancing, and the Brazilian martial art “Capoeira”. Now, he’s passionate about using the exploration of the Moon (and Mars) and Astrobotany research data to inspire students and synthesis opportunities to collaborate with the global Space Biology research community.

Board Member

Daniel is a principal data scientist with a background in biomedical sciences and a master’s degree in bioinformatics. With years of experience working in software development and data analysis, he has helped organizations across various industries make informed decisions using advanced analytics.