Applicants, SPA

  • Claudia Mak

    I started as a biological chemistry PhD graduate student in 2020, after studying enzymes involved in plant starch degradation in my undergraduate studies. Here, I conduct research in cell free reconstitution of protein-based mesoscale structures derived from bacteria. I am interested in protein engineering and developing mesoscale protein-based tools. I am also interested in applying the protein tools I develop for reductionistic studies of the biological systems they’re derived from.

  • Saad Naseem

    I’m a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the Joint BioEnergy Institute, specializing in biochemistry and molecular biology. My research focuses on characterizing sugar catabolism and engineering bacteria for sustainable biofuel production. Additionally, I’m exploring chemical biology tools to uncover new pathways in microbial communities, aiming to contribute to the bioeconomy and environmental well-being.

  • Anne Villacastin

    Anne Villacastin (she/her) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Joint BioEnergy Institute of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). She joined LBNL in 2022 and has since been dedicated to discovering optimized transformation methods for the sorghum cereal crop, a promising source of renewable biofuels and bioproducts. Prior to this, she was awarded her PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2022. Her doctoral research focused on studying the roles of drought-related genes in rice through the application of a multiplex CRISPR triple-gene knockout system.

  • Goncagul Cengiz Baris

    Goncagul Cengiz Baris is a doctoral student in law at the T.C. Beirne Law School, University of Queensland and the ARC Centre of Excellency in Synthetic Biology. She is also a bursary and part of the Australian National Science Agency, CSIRO’s Advanced Engineering Biology Future Science Platform, supervised by Rob Speight, the director of AEB FSP and a member of EBRC. Her thesis research seeks to understand the role of law in establishing, implementing, and regulating the standards of Synthetic Biology by looking at the intersection between collective knowledge management and intellectual property regimes. Of particular interest to her research are the notions of standard biological parts, organism-level standardisation, biosecurity, biosafety and how standards mediate and operate by differing modes of circulation. Say hello at

  • David Garcia

    Dr. David Garcia is a synthetic biologist and metabolic engineer currently working as a Senior Research Scientist in the BioChemistry Branch at DEVCOM CBC and a visiting scholar at Caltech. He spent the first year of an NRC postdoctoral fellowship at Caltech in the Murray lab developing cell-free biological circuitry and simplified organisms. He earned his doctorate in Mitchel J Doktycz’s laboratory at The University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. During this time, he was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to develop his thesis work focused on cell-free systems optimized for metabolic engineering and protein production. His current work is centered around the use of high-throughput methodologies to scale the production of cell-free biological sensors and cell-free bioproduction.

  • Alex Hansen

  • Robert Barlow

    I am a graduate student at the University of Delaware in Dr. Kevin Solomon’s lab. I am researching and developing new gene editing technologies to complement existing tools.

  • Piyush Nanda

    I am a PhD candidate in Andrew Murray’s lab at Harvard University. I am fascinated by how cells orchestrate thousands of chemical reactions in a coordinated manner within them. I am also interested in developing platform synthetic biology strategies to improve bioproduction. I like reading books on mathematics, evolution and economics. I am determined to figure out ‘the theory of everything’ for biology.


    I am an interdisciplinary researcher skilled in electrochemistry, synthetic biology, microbiology, and environmental engineering. I specialize in developing rapid, multiplex whole-cell biosensors by merging synthetic electron flow with advanced electrochemical techniques. These innovations convert biological signals into digital outputs, targeting diagnostic and public health challenges.
    My future goal is to utilize microbial electron transfer to create conductive biomaterials for advanced bioelectronics, aiming to revolutionize personalized healthcare.

  • Felicia Oentoro

    Felicia is a chemical engineering PhD student at Georgia Tech, where she works in the Styczynski lab. She works with cell-free systems, and their applications in affordable biosensors. Prior to this, she did her undergraduate in Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and worked at the nonprofit Cleveland Water Alliance for a few years. In her free time, she enjoys running, she enjoys running, climbing, yoga, and taking pottery classes.

  • Alexander Ditzel

    Dr. Ditzel is a postdoctoral researcher at the US Naval Research Laboratory, where he is working on synthetic bacteriophage development, addressing the global challenge of antibiotic resistance. As the founder and chairman of the Gogec competition, he is deeply committed to democratizing synthetic biology education, fostering accessibility and inclusivity in the field. Beyond the lab, Dr. Ditzel is interested in a variety of topics, such as geopolitics, artificial intelligence, and psychology.

  • Connor Hines

    Doctoral Candidate studying Prokaryotic and Archaeal metabolism and metabolic pathways. Interested in improving Methanosarcina acetivorans as a model organism. Currently working at Los Alamos National Laboratory under a SCGSR Fellowship.

  • Liyam Chitayat

    I am passionate about building programmable and evolveable interfaces between systems. Inspired by the evolvability of living systems, I studied my double major degree in Chemistry and Biology and completed Summa Cum Lauda (ranking among the top 10 female students in the faculty of exact sciences) at Tel Aviv University. During My MSc in biomedical engineering, I co-led the iGEM TAU team and executed my thesis research aiming to encode differential expression into genetic elements transformed into a microbiome, in light of lateral gene transfer.

    I was selected in 2022 to serve as a program officer in the Bioengineering Unit of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, where I won the accelerator prize for pioneering innovation and was the youngest member of the 40 under 40 list of “the marker” Israel. I am passionate about biotech democratization and outreach, which I have done by starting a “by student for student” biotech entrepreneurship nonprofit called Nucleate.

  • Gia-Bao Dam

  • Jiwoo Kim

    I am a graduate student in Silberg Lab at Rice University. My thesis is focused on studying the effect of water potential on the behaviors of soil microbes by engineering them to act as gas reporters. Outside of the lab, I am involved in the graduate student association of my department, and I like to hang out with my pets.

  • Jie Zhou

  • Robyn Alba

    I am a graduate student at Rice University in the synthetic biology lab of Dr. Caroline Ajo-Franklin where I study exoelectrogenic bacteria. My research seeks to elucidate extracellular electron transfer mechanisms in the probiotic bacteria for applications in biosensing and biocomputing. Before my time as a graduate student, I spent nine years as a music performer and educator, teaching students of all ages! I have carried my passion for education into my science research and hope to become a professor in the future.

  • Jérémie Marlhens

    I’m a graduate student with a background in mathematics, biology, and synthetic biology. I’ve worked on machine learning and conducted research in labs worldwide, in different areas of Biology. I’m passionate about research, eager to learn, and committed to ethical science. I look forward to being part of the EBRC community and collaborating on exciting synthetic biology projects.

  • Neil Dalvie

    I completed my PhD in chemical engineering at MIT in 2022, where I improved the manufacturing of therapeutic proteins by protein engineering and yeast genome engineering. Now, I am a Fellow in the Synthetic Biology Hive at Harvard Medical School and am supported by a Schmidt Science Fellowship for postdoctoral research. I studied chemical engineering as an undergraduate at Northwestern University, and I am originally from San Diego, CA.

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