SPA Board

  • Andrea Garza

    Andrea is a PhD candidate in the Chappell Lab at Rice University. Her research focuses on optimizing gene editing systems to study the genetic regulation and secondary metabolism of the bacteria Streptomyces. Prior to this, she graduated from the University of Houston with a BSc in Honors Biomedical Sciences. Outside of research, Andrea enjoys drawing, sewing, and roller skating. She is also a Mentorship Program Liaison and a Social Co-Chair for the EBRC’s SPA.

  • Ilenne Del Valle Kessra

    Ilenne is a postdoctoral researcher in the Eckert lab at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She earned her Ph.D. in the Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology program at Rice University in the Silberg (Biosciences) and Masiello (Earth Sciences) labs. Her research studies plant-microbe-soil interactions using synthetic biology tools for sustainable biofuel production. Ilenne is a member of the EBRC Student and Postdoc Association Board and works as the liaison to the Policy and International Engagement group. She is a strong supporter of empowering STEM women and minorities. She is also passionate about SciArt and public outreach.

  • Joshua Atkinson

    Josh is a postdoctoral fellow in Moh El-Naggar’s lab at the University of Southern California. His research focuses on using synthetic biology and protein engineering to control electron transport in biological systems. Josh is a member of the EBRC Student and Postdoc Association Board and works as a liaison to the education working group.

  • Ying-Chiang Jeffrey Lee

    Ying-Chiang is a graduate student in the Donia Lab at Princeton University. He currently works on the capture and characterization of novel bioactive microbiome-derived peptides, particularly focusing on host-microbe interactions. The long term goal is to engineer therapeutic peptides from natural templates. Before coming to Princeton, Ying-Chiang completed his undergraduate work at Washington University in St. Louis where he worked in the Moon Lab and Virgin Lab. He then completed an MPH specializing in Global Health followed by an MEng.

  • Leah Davis

    Leah is a Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. student in the Daringer Lab at Rowan University. Her research focuses on engineering mammalian cell-based biosensors for the detection of extracellular ligands. Before starting graduate school, she received her undergraduate degree in Energy Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, where she completed four internships and worked full-time for a year post graduation. If she’s not in the lab you can find her with her pug, Nugget.

  • Yan Zhang

    Yan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Styczynski Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on interfacing cell-free biosensors with new materials to advance point-of-care diagnostics. Outside of research and EBRC, Yan is involved in the iGEM Mentoring Program and Women-in-STEM initiative.

  • Eric South

    Eric J. South

    As a graduate student in the Dunlop Lab at Boston University, Eric is developing optogenetic tools and feedback control strategies to improve how heterologous metabolic pathways integrate with native host cell physiologies. He is broadly interested in how synthetic biology and computer-aided techniques are being combined to accelerate the design of engineered microbes.

  • Ross Jones

    Ross is a postdoctoral fellow in Peter Zandstra’s lab at the University of British Colombia, where he is using synthetic biology to program pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into immune cells. He completed his PhD in Biological Engineering under Ron Weiss and Domitilla Del Vecchio at MIT, where he developed genetic circuits that impart robust, context-independent control of gene expression in mammalian cells. Ross did his undergraduate in Bioengineering at the University of Washington, and remains an avid Husky fan to this day – go Dawgs!

  • Andrew Hunt

    Andrew Hunt is a PhD student in the Jewett Lab at Northwestern University. His research centers on the use of Cell-Free Protein Synthesis to accelerate the pace of design and synthesis of new protein parts for synthetic biology. Andrew is a member of the EBRC Student and Postdoc Association Board and works as a liaison to the education working group.

  • Cholpisit Ice Kiattisewee

    Ice is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington working under the supervision of James Carothers and Jesse Zalatan. He works on developing a bacterial CRISPR tool for the genetic rewiring of various microbes mainly for application in Metabolic Engineering and Signaling. He is originally from Thailand where he graduated with B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Organic Chemistry before shifting into the Engineering Biology world. Whenever Seattle weather is permissive, Ice enjoys hiking and surfing apart from getting beaten up in Muay Thai training.

  • Michael Sheets

    As a graduate student in the Dunlop Lab at Boston University, Michael uses optogenetic tools to study the development of antibiotic resistance. His current work focuses on the design & characterization of light-inducible recombinases in bacteria. He is broadly interested in using synthetic biology to combat antibiotic resistance, and incorporating the DBTL cycle into K-12 and undergraduate education.

  • Arren Liu

    Arren Liu is currently a 4th year Ph.D. student in Arizona State University’s Biological Design Doctoral Program, in the School of Engineering of Matter, Transport, and Energy. He received his Bachelor of Sciences degree from Purdue University in Genetics with a minor in Biotechnology. Arren is co-advised by Dr. Arul Varman and Dr. David Nielsen, where he conducts systems and synthetic biology research. Arren’s research specifically focuses on the metabolic engineering of Escherichia coli and Corynebacterium glutamicum for the enhanced biosynthesis of natural products, such as polyphenols, from agricultural waste.


  • Matthew Amrofell

    Matt is a synthetic biology graduate student researcher at Washington University in St. Louis in the lab of Tae Seok Moon. He engineers probiotic organisms in order to develop the next generation of safe and effective living medicines. Prior to starting graduate school, he worked in Michael Jewett’s lab at Nortwestern studying post-tranlational modifications in cell-free protein synthesis reactions. He also worked several co-op terms at Baxter Healthcare. In his (limited) spare time, Matt likes to bake (and eat!) bread, play soccer, read sci-fi/fantasy, and play with his two dogs, Loki and Baloo.

  • Kok Zhi Lee

    Kok Zhi is a postdoctoral fellow in Fuzhong Zhang’s lab at Washington University in St. Louis. He repurposes/engineers proteins in nature for biotechnology applications, tackling material synthesis and sustainability challenges. He completed his Ph.D. in Bioengineering under Kevin Solomon at Purdue University, where he characterized prokaryotic argonautes for novel gene-editing tool development without sequence-motif restrictions. Outside of research, Kok Zhi serves as a Social Chair in EBRC SPA, dedicated to creating diverse and inclusive environments for networking and career developments in the synthetic biology community.

  • Bridget Luckie

    I graduated from Clemson University in 2018 with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.S. in Genetics and am a rising 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley.

  • Ania Ariadna Baetica

    Ania-Ariadna Baetica

    Ania-Ariadna Baetica (Membership Liaison) is a postdoctoral fellow in the El-Samad Lab at UCSF. Her research is on the design, implementation, and analysis of synthetic biological controllers. As the membership liaison, Ania is helping to develop a community of synthetic biologists and to organize events for students and postdoctoral fellows during EBRC retreats.

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