Meet Your Professor: Dr. Luke Busta

A new series where faculty members in UMD's Swenson College of Science & Engineering introduce themselves to provide more insight into their interests, their classes and their lives. This one was written and submitted by Dr. Luke Busta.

I am an Assistant Professor in the UMD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. I teach analytical chemistry courses and I research the chemistry of plants. I grew up in central Minnesota, near St. Cloud, surrounded by corn fields. My mom had a big garden, and I was always fascinated by plants. In school I was inspired by my math and chemistry teachers, and so came to UMD to get an undergraduate degree in chemistry.

Waxy coatings that protect plants from drought

In 2011, I graduated from UMD and learned that I could combine my two passions, chemistry and plants, by pursuing a PhD at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC). In Vancouver, I studied the ways in which plants use chemistry to survive in hot, dry environments. This is important because droughts are a threat to our food supply. After earning my PhD, I worked at the University of Nebraska for four years as a plant chemistry researcher. I participated in lots of different research projects, but most of them related to understanding how plants (especially crops like corn, sorghum, soybeans, and carrots) use chemistry to defend themselves against both insects and drought.

Professor Luke Busta Walking in Bagley Nature Area
Walking in Bagley Nature Area

After four years in Nebraska, my wife and I wanted to come back home to Minnesota. We missed the beauty of the north woods and the snowy winters (yes, we like winter!). I was fortunate enough to land a position here at UMD, so we recently moved back to Duluth, and I’ve started working here as a faculty member. My wife and I now have a daughter, and we are so happy to be back in Northern Minnesota! You might see us at breweries around town, at the playground, or at the beach – one of our favorite places to be. 

Here at UMD I lead a research team that is continuing our work on plant chemistry. We are studying drought resistant crops and the types of chemistry they use to survive without water. One trick they use is to coat themselves in a layer of waterproof wax that prevents them from drying out. Not all plants can do this, including many of our crops like corn and soybeans. We are now working to figure out how to breed corn plants that have this ability to see if it will allow them to survive in hot dry summers.

Hiking the Superior Trail

Dr. Busta's Hobbies

I love to go outside, especially as the seasons change. Seeing all the ways in which the forests and lakes around us transform over the course of a year is so beautiful! The more time that I can spend outside, whether it be walking, driving, hiking, biking, or just in my backyard, the happier I am. Some of my favorite places to go are the rocky beaches along Lake Superior’s North Shore as well as the trails and forests in the surrounding areas. I particularly love these places in the winter – skiing and winter camping are favorites of mine.


Courses Dr. Busta Teaches at UMD:

Quantitative Analysis (Laboratory), CHEM 2222 (CHEM2223)

Instrumental Analysis, CHEM 4242

Advanced Analytical Chemistry I, CHEM 5725

Modern Mass Spectrometry, CHEM 8720


Contact Dr. Luke Busta


[email protected]

+1 218 726 7346

The Busta Lab Website: