Lucas Hartsough headshot

I believe that engineering biology as a computational and metabolic machine constitutes the future of bioscience, and that synthetic biology will revolutionize how we approach our most pressing scientific pursuits, both here on earth and among the stars.


I am passionate about creating tools that lower the barrier for others to adopt traditionally complex techniques and to accelerate their research.


  • Optogenetic & chemical manipulation of bacterial gene expression using custom hardware, both in liquid culture and with microscopy
  • Proficient in design and assembly of bacterial gene circuits, especially sense-respond systems.
  • Highly experienced with measurement & analysis of single-cell fluorescence via flow cytometry as well as time-lapse, single-cell fluorescence microscopy
  • Comfortable with a range of model systems, including: E. coli, S. cerevisiae & C. elegans worms.


  • Proficient with Python. Created a custom package, PyHMMER, that enables high-throughput analysis of all NCBI genomes to mine co-localized proteins matching arbitrary hidden Markov models.
  • Comfortable with JavaScript and AngularJS. Co-developed a webapp, Iris, used to program and simulate dynamic optogenetic time courses for use with our lab's open-source hardware platform.
  • Familiar with C, Java, LaTeX, SolidWorks, Inkscape & Linux, and comfortable with version control (Git, GitHub)


  • Comfortable with basic circuit design: PCB design & routing, surface-mount soldering, assembly, and debugging. Used these skills to adapt our optogenetic hardware to be compatible with a CubeSat form factor.
  • Highly experienced with programmable microcontrollers (Arduino, RaspberryPi) for use in automating optogenetic apparatus and other hardware.
  • Comfortable with basic 3D design in SolidWorks and 3D printing (PLA extrusion)
  • Experience with sub-milliliter fluidic devices and metered flow systems


Optogenetic control of C. elegans gut bacterial gene expression

Hartsough, Kotlajich, Lin, Han, Wang & Tabor

PyHMMER: a high-throughput tool for identifying protein clusters and domain architectures using Python and HMMER

Hartsough & Tabor

An open hardware platform for optogenetics and photobiology

Gerhardt, Olson, Castillo-Hair, Hartsough, Landry, Ekness, Yokoo, Gomez, Ramakrishnan, Suh, Savage & Tabor

How Synthetic Biology Will Solve Biological Mysteries and Make Humans Safer in Space


Characterizing bacterial gene circuit dynamics with optically programmed gene expression signals

Olson, Hartsough, Landry, Shroff & Tabor



Iris is a visual programming interface for the Tabor Lab optogenetic hardware platform.


PyHMMER enables high-throughput genome searches using HMMER.


  • Rice University Bioengineering PhD

    May 2018

    PhD Candidate & NSTRF Fellow

    Dept. of Bioengineering, Rice University

    Created quantitative models of the Tabor Lab bacterial optogenetic tools and used them to investigate the relationship betwen gut microbiome and host in C. elegans.

  • NASA NSTRF Fellowship & internship

    Summers 2012-2015

    NASA Summer Research Intern

    NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

    As a recipient of the NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship, I was able to spend summers with fantastic bioengieers at NASA Ames. I was also awarded a $25k grant to adapt optogenetic hardware to a CubeSat (OptoGeneSat).

  • Caltech BS in bioengineering

    June 2011

    BS Bioengineering with Honors

    California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

    I was a member of the first cohort of Bioengineers and President of Lloyd House, one of the 8 undergraduate houses and hubs of student life. I also assessed student Honor Code violations as Secretary of the Board of Control and served as a student counselor & certified First Responder.

  • Caltech iGEM team

    Jan - Nov 2010

    Caltech iGEM Team Captain

    International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, Boston, MA

    I was awarded a $45k grant to restart the Caltech iGEM team. Along with 5 others, we earned a gold medal for our optogenetic 3D printer concept.

For Fun!

Lucas in the Rice EMS training program


I recently earned my national EMT Basic certification and am licensed to practice in the state of Texas. Stressful, but rewarding!

Lucas attempting to BBQ a turkey for Thanksgiving

Texas BBQ

My favorite Texas tradition. While not a Texan myself, I've studied this arcane art under their tutelage.

Lucas horseback riding with mom

Horseback Riding

I'm no expert, but enjoy the relaxing experience of getting the chance to ride when I visit home.

Lucas and friends at Valhalla


I volunteer an hour of my week at Rice's dive bar, Valhalla, where we serve the best beer on campus! Perhaps one day I'll graduate to cocktails...