Individual Members

  • Huimin Zhao

    Dr. Huimin Zhao is the Steven L. Miller Chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and professor of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He received his B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992 and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 under the guidance of Nobel Laureate Dr. Frances Arnold. Prior to joining UIUC in 2000, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company. He was promoted to full professor in 2008. Dr. Zhao has authored and co-authored over 300 research articles and over 25 issued and pending patent applications with several being licensed by industry. In addition, he has given over 370 plenary, keynote, or invited lectures. Twenty-six (26) of his former graduate students and postdocs are pursuing academic careers. Dr. Zhao received numerous research and teaching awards and honors. His primary research interests are in the development and applications of synthetic biology tools to address society’s most daunting challenges in health, energy, and sustainability, and in the fundamental aspects of enzyme catalysis, cell metabolism, gene regulation, and cell differentiation.

  • Kevin Solomon

    Dr. Kevin Solomon is an Assistant Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. His work studies animal microbiomes to develop novel microbial platforms for sustainable biomanufacturing and depolymerization of polymeric waste substrates. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering from McMaster University (Canada) and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT. As part of his graduate work, Dr. Solomon developed new tools to increase biomanufacturing efficiency. His research and mentorship, at the intersection of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, were recognized with multiple awards including a Lemelson Presidential Fellowship, an NSERC Julie Payette Award, and a Science Education Leadership Award from SynBERC. As a postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Barbara, he applied the latest advances in sequencing technologies to study how anaerobic fungi degrade lignocellulose and identify new tools for synthetic biology. Using these techniques, he spearheaded efforts to molecularly characterize in depth a class of elusive microbes with tremendous potential for biofuel production, agriculture, and drug discovery. His work is supported by the NSF, DOE, private trusts and industry.

  • Jesse Zalatan

    Jesse Zalatan is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Washington. His research focuses on understanding the physical organizing principles of biological networks in systems such as cell signaling, metabolism, and gene regulation, using methods ranging from mechanistic enzymology to synthetic biology. Jesse did his graduate work with Dan Herschlag on the mechanisms of enzyme-catalyzed phosphoryl transfer reactions. He performed postdoctoral research with Wendell Lim, where he studied mechanisms for controlling specificity in cell signaling networks.

  • Neha Kamat

    The Kamat Lab’s interests lie in constructing minimal systems, or artificial cells, as a tool to understand and recreate certain cellular behaviors. They use emerging engineering methods in material science and synthetic biology to construct in vitro models of cellular membranes that can couple membrane biophysical processes to chemical and genetic processes, yielding new cellular mimetic biomaterials, capable of complex sensing, signaling, and responsive behaviors. Their particular interests lie in understanding the role of the bilayer membrane in mechanical force sensing and designing biosensors for environmental analytes. Neha received a BS in Bioengineering from Rice University and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently holds a Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Research Office.

  • Rebecca Schulman

    Rebecca Schulman is an associate professor in the Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Institute for Nanobiotechnology and the Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics at The Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on the development of intelligent and adaptive biomolecular materials and nanostructures and combines ideas from materials science, circuit design and cell-free synthetic biology. Dr. Schulman joined JHU after working as a Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship in physics at UC Berkeley. She received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and computer science from MIT and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. Recent awards include a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, DARPA Young Faculty Award and Directors Fellowship, an NSF Career Award, a Turing Scholar Award and a DOE Early Career Award

  • Jean Peccoud

    Dr. Peccoud’s research program focuses on synthetic biology informatics. His group combines computational and experimental efforts to develop predictive models of behaviors encoded in synthetic DNA sequences. He is particularly interested in using methods from synthetic biology to optimize biomanufacturing processes used to produce biologic drugs, antibodies, and other proteins of commercial interest. Peccoud is also actively engaged in efforts to understand the security implications of synthetic biology.

    Shortly after completing a graduate research project in molecular immunology, Jean Peccoud’s scientific interests shifted to computational biology. In 1989, he published one of the first articles describing a mathematical model of molecular noise in gene regulatory networks. In 1993, he recognized the importance of real-time PCR and developed new statistical techniques suitable to analyze this new type of data. In 2002, he observed with excitement the very early developments of synthetic biology. After exploring the potential applications of this new technology to plant biotechnology, he blazed a trail in synthetic biology informatics.

    Jean Peccoud came to Colorado State University from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech. He brought with him a diverse experience that includes working for Fortune 500 and start-up companies. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Synthetic Biology published by Oxford University Press.

  • Brian Pfleger

    Brian received his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 2000 and earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2005 from the University of California-Berkeley. Brian was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan from 2005-2007. Brian is currently the Jay and Cynthia Ihlenfeld Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UW-Madison with an appointment in the Microbiology Doctoral Training Program. Brian’s research group uses systems and synthetic biology approaches to develop biocatalysts for production of small molecules. Brian’s research has been recognized with young investigator awards from 3M, NSF (CAREER), DOE (Early Career), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR-YIP), Biotechnology and Bioengineering (Daniel IC Wang Award), the Society of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, the American Chemical Society BIOT Division (2018 YI Award), and Purdue University (Mellichamp lectureship). Brian also received the Benjamin Smith Reynolds teaching award from the UW-Madison College of Engineering for his efforts to introduce undergraduates to biotechnology.

  • Wilson Wong

    Wilson Wong is a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University and a core member of the BU Biological Design Center. His lab is focused on developing synthetic biology tools in mammalian systems for cell-based therapy. He is the recipient of many awards, including the NIH New Innovator, NSF CAREER, and ACS Synthetic Biology Young Investigator Award. He received his B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley and Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from UCLA with Dr. James Liao. He was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Scholar at UCSF with Dr. Wendell Lim (primary advisor) and Dr. Arthur Weiss.

  • Jonathan Silberg

    Prof. Silberg obtained Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology and Chemistry at the University of California Irvine, and a PhD in Biology at the University of California Irvine. He continued his postdoctoral research in Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology. Joff joined the Department of Biosciences at Rice University as an Assistant Professor in 2004 and is now the Stewart Memorial Professor of Biochemistry with joint appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering and Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. His research focuses on applying synthetic biology across the cell/material interface with the goals of understanding the effects of environmental matrices (soils and sediments) on microbial behaviors and creating microbes that communicate electrically with devices (bioelectronics).

  • Lingchong You

    Lingchong You is Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. His laboratory explores design principles of biological networks and uses synthetic gene circuits for applications in computation, engineering, and medicine.

  • Tobias Giessen

    Tobias Giessen is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He grew up in Germany and attended Philipps-University Marburg in Hesse to study chemistry. Winning an Erasmus Fellowship, he spent two semester at Imperial College London, UK in the group of Alan Armstrong working on the total synthesis of bioactive marine natural products before graduating with a M.Sc. His Ph.D. training was with Mohamed A. Marahiel where he focused on the discovery and biosynthesis of novel antibiotics, graduating in 2013. As a Leopoldina Fellow, he completed his postdoctoral training with Pamela Silver at Harvard Medical School working on the discovery and engineering of microbial protein organelles before joining the University of Michigan in 2019. His lab is currently focused on mining microbial genomes for novel protein organelle systems involved in various cellular functions including stress resistance, detoxification and pathogenicity. By utilizing these newly discovered protein compartments and organelles he aims to design and build functional protein assemblies and integrate them with advanced genetic circuits to tackle real world problems in biomedicine, catalysis and sustainability. These efforts will result in novel living diagnostics and therapeutics, programmable nanomaterials and intracellular nanoreactors. In 2017, he was awarded the Leopoldina Prize from the German National Academy of Sciences.

  • Srivatsan Raman

    My career path has taken me from process engineer in a petroleum refinery to a computational biologist, biochemist and now a synthetic biologist. A career in research was not what I had in mind after finishing a college, but a course in statistical mechanics changed the direction of my professional life. In the statistical mechanics course, I was awestruck that macroscopic properties of matter can be computed from molecular interactions using simple principles of probability and statistics. I decided switch fields from chemical engineering to studying biomolecules. As I started my Ph.D in biochemistry, I was inspired by the idea that the three-dimensional structure of a protein could be computed from its primary sequence. In Prof. David Baker’s laboratory (University of Washington, Seattle), I developed new computational methods to accurately predict three-dimensional structure of proteins rivaling experimental structures determined by X-ray or NMR. When I joined Prof. George Church’s group (Harvard Medical School) for postdoctoral training, my vision was to forge a new path to engineer proteins and biosynthetic pathways through the synergy of computational methods and high-throughput assays. Through biosensor-guided laboratory evolution, I engineered E. coli to overproduce a valuable natural product. Since biosensors are essential for engineering new cellular regulation, I developed a method to design new biosensors for cellular metabolites and valuable chemicals. As an independent investigator, my laboratory takes a systems and synthetic biology approach to understanding and designing biology at multiple scales: proteins, transcription regulation, metabolic pathways and whole organisms.

  • Melissa Takahashi

    Melissa Takahashi is an Assistant Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge. She received her Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Cornell University and did postdoctoral research with James J. Collins at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Takahashi lab studies the biological principles behind RNA gene regulation in bacteria. A major focus of the lab is understanding and combating the roles of RNA regulation in antibiotic resistance mechanisms. The lab uses cell-free transcription-translation platforms to investigate these mechanisms.

  • Kate Adamala

    Kate Adamala is a biochemist building synthetic cells. Her research aims at understanding chemical principles of biology, using artificial cells to create new tools for bioengineering, drug development, and basic research. Kate’s research spans questions from the origin and earliest evolution of life, using synthetic biology to colonize space, to the future of biotechnology and medicine.

  • Alexander Green

    Since starting his lab at ASU in 2015, Alexander Green’s synthetic biology research program has focused on developing RNA-based cellular control systems and exploiting cell-free systems for implementing low-cost diagnostics. He obtained his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Northwestern University and his B.A.Sc. in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto. He conducted postdoctoral research with Jim Collins and Peng Yin at the Wyss Institute at Harvard. Dr. Green is an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Computational & Evolutionary Molecular Biology (2017) and the recipient of an NIH New Innovator Award (2017), a DARPA Young Faculty Award (2017), and an Arizona Biomedical Research Commission New Investigator Award (2017).

  • Hana El-Samad

    Hana El-Samad is the Kuo Family Endowed Professor and Vice Chair in the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco and the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3). She is a 2009 Packard Fellow and recipient of many honors including the 2011 Donald. P Eckman Award and the 2012 CSB2 prize in Systems Biology. She was also named a Paul. G. Allen Distinguished Investigator in 2013, and senior investigator of the Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub in 2017. Dr. El-Samad joined UCSF after obtaining a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, preceded by a Ms Degree in Electrical Engineering from the Iowa State University. Dr. El-Samad’s research group seeks to deliver foundational insights into biological feedback control, unraveling evolutionary successful principles of feedback strategies that are most appropriate for the biological substrate and achieving understanding at the right depth and granularity for forward engineering them with predictable outcomes. A major current focus of her research is to develop rationally designed, programmable, plug-and-play, cellular recognizance and repair circuits that can be broadly deployed for therapeutic (e.g. cell-based immunotherapy) and biotechnological (e.g. metabolic engineering and bioremediation) applications.

  • Matthew Bennett

    The research in my lab spans the boundary between theoretical and experimental synthetic biology. I am particularly interested in the dynamics of gene regulation – from small-scale interactions such as transcription and translation, to the large-scale dynamics of gene networks and synthetic microbial consortia. I use an interdisciplinary approach to 1) uncover the underlying design principles governing gene networks and microbial consortia, 2) engineer novel synthetic gene circuits for practical applications, and 3) develop new mathematical tools to better describe gene networks. The ultimate goal of my research is to develop synthetic multicellular systems for biomedical and environmental applications.

  • Bryan Davies

    Research in my laboratory explores microbial behavior important for improving human and agricultural health and performance. We study processes that enable microbes to engage with each other and their host, and develop biologics and cell-based systems to control these interactions.

  • Laura Segatori

    Laura Segatori is an Associate Professor in Bioengineering at Rice University. She received a Laurea in Industrial Biotechnology from the University of Bologna in Italy in 2000 and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. She completed her postdoctoral work at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA and joined the faculty at Rice University in 2007 where she holds joint appointments in the departments of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Biosciences. Her research group is highly interdisciplinary and combines principles and tools from engineering and science to decipher and manipulate cellular quality control mechanisms that underlie the development of human diseases. Current research interests are centered on reprogramming mammalian cells for the development of cell-based therapies and biomanufacturing.

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