Our Team

It's just me and these animals right now.

Maxx Chatsko


Hello, I'm Maxx. My parents couldn't spell (among other things). I'm an engineer who's been writing about the technical and financial aspects of biotech and synthetic biology since 2011.

I'm an Eagle Scout. I earned my B.S. in Bioprocess Engineering from SUNY-ESF and my M.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. As an Application Engineer at ChemImage, I co-developed a computational model for a novel hyperspectral imaging system that led to two patents. Since then I've been the first editor-in-chief of SynBioBeta, created my own wet lab to develop applications for magnetotactic bacteria (a spectacular failure), and written thousands of articles published on The Motley Fool, TheStreet, Forbes, TIME Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, CNN Money, and Fox Business News.

I have judged the manufacturing track at the iGEM Competition multiple times since 2016 and am a workshop expert and mentor at Nucleate Bio. Solt DB has a long-term commitment to donate 5% of revenue to our local chapter in Pittsburgh.

I'm currently the Lab Operations Technical Trainer at the CMU Cloud Lab, a collaboration between Emerald Cloud Lab and Carnegie Mellon University. Read more.


Galápagos finch

(Geospiza fortis)

Solt DB's most identifiable mascot is named after John Gould. The English ornithologist correctly identified the finch specimens collected from Charles Darwin's voyage to the Galápagos Islands as distinct species.

Mr. Gould had the peculiar ability to identify nuances among birds, which allowed him to distinguish between species and higher level taxa. Despite living about 170 years before the introduction of DNA sequencing tools, many of his classifications remain accepted to this day. In fact, he's credited with discovering 328 of the nearly 830 bird species in Australia.

Although it's common to read Darwin's finches played a key role in his development of the theory of evolution, they were never actually mentioned in the book On the Origin of Species. Darwin collected finch specimens as an afterthought -- incorrectly labeling several as birds other than finches, and often failing to note the island of origin.

We figured letting Gouldy soak up the limelight here was the least we could do.

An icon graphic of Gouldy the Finch.
An icon graphic of Izzy the Tortoise.


Galápagos giant tortoise

(Chelonoidis niger vicina)

Izzy is named after Isabela Island, the largest of the Galápagos and home to more giant tortoises than all the other islands combined. Then again, the islands are technically named after her. The Western explorers who discovered the island chain named it after the Spanish word for turtle (galápago).

Galápagos giant tortoises are both the largest tortoise and the longest lived vertebrate on the planet. They're difficult to miss visually, but scientists are still making discoveries using DNA sequencing tools. For example, a new species was discovered on San Cristóbal Island in 2022.

Unlike poor Gouldy, the variations in shell shape among tortoise populations on different islands directly influenced Darwin's development of the theory of evolution. Similar to the finch specimens, Darwin failed to properly label the island of origin for many tortoise specimens. The crew aboard the HMS Beagle took tortoises primarily for food on their voyage home -- and as pets.

Izzy is a reminder of the value in slowing things down.