Individual Members

  • Chuck Smallwood

    Chuck Smallwood has broad expertise investigating and engineering cellular biochemical mechanisms in diverse biosystems including bacteria, cyanobacteria, fungi, plants, and microalgae. Most cellular membrane transport mechanisms are multicomponent protein assemblies that are complex in their expression, signaling, and energy transduction. In these contexts, our group utilizes various biochemical and genetic techniques to investigate cellular systems for improved drug (i.e. antibiotic) discovery, production of biomaterials, and biotechnology development.

  • Qing Sun

    Dr. Sun joined The Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering in January 2018 as assistant professor. She obtained her Ph. D. in Dr. Wilfred Chen group at University of Delaware and did her postdoc training in Dr. Timothy Lu group at MIT Synthetic Biology Center.
    We focus on synthetic biology with advancing designs and applications. Using our expertise in molecular engineering, protein engineering, and microbial consortia engineering, we are developing new techniques to reprogram gut microbiome, protein machinery and biomaterials. Our current application areas include health, environment and energy

  • Gigi Gronvall

    Gigi Gronvall is a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Gronvall is the author of the book Synthetic Biology: Safety, Security, and Promise, published in fall 2016 (Health Security Press) and Preparing for Bioterrorism: The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Leadership in Biosecurity. (2013) She is a member of the Novel and Exceptional Technology and Research Advisory Committee (NExTRAC) which provides recommendations to the NIH Director and is a public forum for the discussion of the scientific, safety, and ethical issues associated with emerging biotechnologies. Dr. Gronvall is a member of the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee (TRAC), which provides the Secretary of Defense with independent advice and recommendations on reducing the risk to the United States, its military forces, and its allies and partners posed by nuclear, biological, chemical, and conventional threats. She served as the Science Advisor for the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism from April 2009 until February 2010. Dr. Gronvall is an Associate Editor of the journal Health Security, and is a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Dr. Gronvall received a BS in biology from Indiana University, Bloomington, worked as a protein chemist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and received a PhD from Johns Hopkins University for work on T-cell receptor/MHC I interactions.

  • Deepti Tanjore

    At ABPDU, our passion for bio-innovation drives us. Every day. Whether we’re evaluating biomass, experimenting with microorganisms, optimizing new processes, or performing assays and analyses, our end goal never changes. Simply put, we want to enable you to successfully take your bio-innovation to market.

    We’ve been operational since 2012, collaborating with researchers in the bio-products industry, the National Labs, and academia to optimize and scale technologies to enable the commercialization of bio-based chemicals, materials, and fuels.

  • Patrick Cirino

    Patrick Cirino is Associate Professor in the Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Biology and Biochemistry, at the University of Houston (Houston, TX). He received his PhD degree in chemical engineering from The California Institute of Technology, working with advisor Frances Arnold in the area of cytochrome P450 directed evolution. He then worked as a postdoctoral research associate in microbiology at the University of Florida, under Lonnie Ingram. Current research at the University of Houston incorporates directed evolution and synthetic biology to study and engineer protein-based sensors, biosynthesis pathways, and biocatalysts for production of natural products and functionalization of hydrocarbons.

  • Gene Olinger

    Dr. Gene Olinger is a Science Advisor with MRIGlobal and an adjunct associate professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Medicine, and Division of Infectious Diseases. For the past 20 years he has conducted and supervised in vitro and in vivo experiments in maximum biocontainment (risk level 2-4) at government, industry, and academic laboratories with a focus on high consequence pathogens and biodefense. In his current at MRIGlobal, he is responsible for the scientific mission within internal laboratories, partner laboratories, and in deployed field operations which focused on global health security. He is internationally recognized as a subject matter expert in virology, immunology, biorisk, biosecurity and biosafety with an emphasis with viral hemorrhagic fevers. He has extensive field experience serving as a member, science leader coordinating diagnostic, serological, and other clinical assays to monitor patients during and after outbreaks. Furthermore, he has extensive experience in development of medical countermeasures ranging from prophylactic treatments, vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics. His team in collaboration with international partners developed the first successful antibody treatment for Ebolavirus disease, ZMapp. During the past three years, Dr. Olinger has exanded his area of expertise to include innovative knowledge workforce development using mixed reality/blended learning, science policy, biosurvellance and monitoring using UAS drones, and bioeconomy team building.

  • Arul M Varman

  • Robert Friedman

    Robert Friedman is Vice President for Policy and University Relations at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). Friedman directs JCVI’s Policy Center, which examines the societal and policy implications of genomics, synthetic biology, and other areas of modern biology and biomedicine. Friedman is also a Professor of Practice at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) and is a member of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology of the international Convention on Biological Diversity.

    Earlier, Friedman was a Senior Associate at the Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress (OTA). For 16 years, he advised Congressional committees on issues involving science and technology policy. Friedman received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in Ecological Systems Analysis, concentrating in ecology, environmental engineering, and systems analysis. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Philip Romero

    Philip Romero is an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry and Chemical & Biological Engineering at UW-Madison.  He received his PhD in Biochemistry from Caltech and conducted postdoctoral research at UCSF.  The Romero laboratory applies tools from statistics and machine learning to design proteins for broad applications in medicine, chemical production, and bioenergy.  Dr. Romero has received the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award (2016), the NIH Outstanding Investigator Award (2016), the Shaw Scientist Award (2018), and the WARF Innovation Award (2019).

  • Aditya Kunjapur

    Dr. Aditya Kunjapur began as an Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware in December 2018. His lab focuses on expanding the repertoire of microbial chemistry with an emphasis on enabling new chemical functional groups in living contexts. Dr. Kunjapur received his doctoral degree from MIT in 2015, where he trained under Dr. Kristala Prather and enabled aldehyde biosynthesis in E. coli. Afterwards, he performed postdoctoral research under the supervision of Dr. George Church at Harvard Medical School, where he designed platforms to improve the fidelity of non-standard amino acid incorporation into proteins. Dr. Kunjapur was previously Co-Chair of the Synberc Student and Postdoc Association, the precursor to the EBRC. In 2019, Dr. Kunjapur was awarded an Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative Fellowship.

  • Chris Dupont

    Dr. Chris Dupont is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Environment and Sustainability, Human Health, and Synthetic Biology at JCVI. His primary research focus is on the genomics, physiology, and evolution of microbiomes, both environmental and organismal. This involves synthetic biology enabled work with model organisms or ecosystems as well as sequencing enabled analyses of host-microbe interactions.

    Prior to joining JCVI, Chris received his Ph.D. in Oceanography and Marine Biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as well as a Bachelor’s in Natural Resources and a Master’s of Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.

  • Nikhil Nair

    After receiving his B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Cornell University in 2003, Nikhil Nair worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb as a manufacturing research scientist in biotechnology purification development. He then went on to receive his M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign in 2006 and 2010, respectively. As a graduate student, he developed processes for the production of the sugar substitute xylitol using E. coli and the biofuel butanol using yeast, via a combination of protein and genome engineering approaches. He joined Tufts after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in microbiology and immunobiology at the Harvard Medical School under the guidance of Professor Ann Hochschild.

  • Alanna Schepartz

    Professor Schepartz’s research group is interested in questions that span the chemistry-biology continuum. We seek to establish new knowledge about the chemistry of complex cellular processes and apply this knowledge to design or discover molecules–both small and large–with unique or useful properties. We apply the tools of organic synthesis, biochemistry, biophysics, and structural, molecular, and synthetic biology in our work. Current projects focus on (1) repurposing the ribosome to biosynthesize sequence-defined chemical polymers and polyketides; (2) exploring and improving novel tools for trafficking proteins to the cytosol and nucleus for therapeutic applications; (3) understanding the mechanism by which chemical information is transported through cellular membranes; and (4) developing new probes and fluorophores to image organelle dynamics at super-resolution for highly extended times and in multiple colors

  • Mark Blenner

    My research group addresses big problems in sustainability, human health, national defense, and space exploration – using synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, genomics & systems biology, and protein engineering. We are most interested in derisking and speeding up cell line development. We work mostly in eukaryotic systems (non-model yeast and mammalian cells) as well as bacteria.

  • Jeffrey Gralnick

    Jeffrey Gralnick is a bacterial physiologist and geneticist who earned his PhD in Bacteriology with Diana Downs at University of Wisconsin – Madison. He began working with the environmental bacterium Shewanella oneidensis as a postdoc at Caltech with Dianne Newman. In 2005 he started his lab at the University of Minnesota BioTechnology Institute focusing on extracellular electron transfer in environmental bacteria that make a living by transforming redox reactive metals. His lab uses synthetic biology to both engineer and understand these usual microbes.

  • Mark Mimee

    Mark Mimee is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. His interest in microbial life began in Montreal, Canada, where he completed his Bachelor of Science in Microbiology & Immunology at McGill University. Inspired by the nascent field of synthetic biology, Mark pursued studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, completing his PhD in Microbiology with Dr. Timothy Lu as an HHMI International Student Fellow and a Qualcomm Innovation Fellow. His research focuses on developing strategies to precisely engineer the activity and composition of the microbiota. His long-term vision is to implement these technologies to chart new basic and translational studies to exploit the microbiota for human health.

  • Sam Weiss Evans

    Sam’s work focuses on the governance of security concerns in emerging research technology, especially biology. He studies and actively engages with a range of communities building new approaches to the identification and governance of security concerns, including US and British governments, the international Genetically Engineered Machines Competition, DARPA, and the United Nations Institute on Disarmament Research.

  • Blake Simmons

    Dr. Simmons is the Director of the Biological Systems and Engineering Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory ( He also serves as the Chief Science and Technology Officer and Vice-President of the Deconstruction Division at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (, a DOE Office of Science funded project tasked with the development and realization of next-generation “drop-in” biofuels and bioproducts produced from sustainable, non-food lignocellulosic biomass. He is also the Project Management Lead for the DOE Agile BioFoundry (

  • Ian Wheeldon

    Dr. Wheeldon is an Associate Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). He is also the director of UCR’s Center for Industrial Biotechnology. Dr. Wheeldon received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University in 2009 and completed two years of postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. He received a Master’s of Applied Science from the Royal Military College of Canada, and a Bachelor’s of Applied Science from Queen’s University, Canada. Dr. Wheeldon’s laboratory focuses on synthetic biology for chemical synthesis.

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