IRG2 - MRSEC Funded Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers

Adam Caparco

Adam is a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Steinmetz on plant- and protein-based living materials and precision agriculture. Ultimately, Adam aims to be a professor with a focus on environmental biotechnology after completion of his postdoctoral research. He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at UCLA, and his Ph.D. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. For his Ph.D. work, Adam focused on using protein engineering and materials synthesis for applications in enzyme immobilization. Adam also completed a STEM Chateaubriand Fellowship at Genoscope/CEA in France, where he worked with an interdisciplinary team to use metagenomics for enzyme discovery. In his spare time, Adam likes to tackle ambitious cooking projects and volunteer with LGBTQ organizations.

Jeffrey Chen

Jeff is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Burkart lab in the department of Chemistry at UC San Diego. He is studying fatty acid biosynthesis in algae with the goal of engineering the pathway to produce valuable chemicals in a sustainable fashion. In addition, he is also engineering E. coli to produce neopentyl glycol as part of a collaborative effort to produce renewable biodegradable polyurethanes.

Debika Datta (IRG2 Trainee Leadership Council Representative)

Debika is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Professor Jon Pokorski and is serving as MRSEC Trainee Leadership Group Representative (IRG2). Her current research focuses on fabricating biosynthetic materials by integrating genetically engineered cells into polymer composites. The aim is to develop materials that respond to stimuli encoded by genetic manipulation. Prior to joining the lab, she received her Doctoral degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India. During her PhD research she developed biocompatible gelators from short self-assembling peptides for applications in drug delivery and tissue engineering. In her spare time she enjoys photography, traveling, writing and painting.

Yvonne Ma

Yvonne is a second-year Ph.D. student in NanoEngineering. She is working on the development of living material with plants. Her current research focuses on the synthesis of stimuli-responsive hydrogel with plant viruses and plant tissue. Yvonne received her B.S. in Polymer Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in 2019, where she worked on engineering polysaccharide derivatives for hemostasis augmentation.

Luis Palomino

Luis Palomino is an entering Ph.D. student in the UC San Diego NanoEngineering department, who will join the Pokorski Lab in Fall 2021. He obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from the National University of San Marcos - UNMSM (Lima, Peru) in 2016. For the last five years, he was a research assistant and instructor at the University of Engineering and Technology - UTEC (Lima, Peru). Holding this position, he participated in funded collaborative projects with the University of Connecticut, Harvard University, and Cleveland Clinic developing metallic, polymeric, and carbon nanomaterials for their use in environmental remediation, drug delivery, and energy storage.

Robert Ramji

Robert is a first year Ph.D. student in the department of Nanoengineering at UC San Diego. Co-advised by Prof. Tod Pascal and Prof. Darren Lipomi, he is working on simulating PEDOT:PSS and improving models and simulation methods for conjugated polymers and polyelectrolytes. Robert is also currently collaborating with the Goddard group at Caltech on developing improved interfaces at the user and application level for molecular simulations. Robert completed an M.S. in Nanoengineering in 2021 and received a double major in Chinese Studies and Nanoengineering in 2020, all at UC San Diego.

Steven Schara

Steven is a second-year NanoEngineering Ph.D. student advised by Professor Darren Lipomi. His research is focused on the synthesis and mechanical properties of conjugated polymers for biodegradable electronics as well as 3D printing applications. He aspires to propel his Ph.D. into an academic profession, as his main goal is to teach and mentor students like himself one day. He received his B.S. in Materials Science from Rice University.

Elliot Weiss

Elliot is a fifth-year Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, co-advised by Professors Susan Golden and Greg Mitchell. Prior to beginning his graduate program, he worked for several years as a laboratory technician, studying phytoplankton photophysiology and traveling to both the Arctic and Antarctic to analyze the optical properties of seawater in these regions. His thesis focuses on the interactions between phytoplankton and light, with an emphasis on ultraviolet radiation. Using highthroughput genomic techniques, he is elucidating strategies for high light and ultraviolet radiation tolerance in a model cyanobacterium. Simultaneously, he aims to apply techniques and results of these studies towards biotechnological applications. In his free time, he enjoys rock climbing, playing several different instruments, and surfing.

Jiayu Zhao

Jiayu is a second-year Ph.D. student in NanoEngineering department at UC San Diego She received her B.S. in Polymer Science and Engineering at Beijing University of Chemical Technology in 2017, and her M.S. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in 2019. She is currently working on stimuli responsive soft materials for programmed shape morphing in Professor Jinhye Bae's lab.

IRG2 - MRSEC Affiliate Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers

Reagan Beers

Reagan Beers is a UC San Diego undergraduate Chemistry major (class of 2022), who participated in the 2020 SSSiN (coronavirus edition). She also participated in the 2021 SSSiN as a Mentor, with a research focus on porous Si films and particles as catalytic materials.

Madeline Brown

Madeline is an undergraduate Molecular and Cell Biology major at UC San Diego (class of 2023). She has prior research experience investigating predictive biomarkers for gastric and colorectal cancer, has worked as a student assistant in the Nano3 facility, and participated in the 2020 and 2021 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology. Her interests include developing methods for nanosurgery involving nanoparticles for biomedical applications, with a focus on revascularization of damaged tissues.

Oscar Calzada

Oscar is an undergraduate student at the University of San Diego (class of 2022) who participated in the SSSiN via the UCSD MRSEC RIMSE program. He will be working on nanparticles as PET contrast agents. Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology. His interests include developing methods for loading of porous Si nanoparticles with tissue growth factors.

Ivonne Gonzalez

Ivonne Gonzalez Gamboa

Ivonne is a postdoctoral researcher at the Steinmetz Lab, working on developing biomaterials for nanoAg applications and precision farming. She has a bachelor degree in Biotechnology Engineering with a minor in Research and Innovation from Tec de Monterrey (México). She later obtained her M.Sc. in Agrobiotechnology and Ph.D. in Plant Biotechnology from UPM (Spain) under the direction of Prof. Fernando Ponz, by developing versatile multi-functionalized plant viral platform. Then, she completed a postdoc appointment at the Álvarez-Trujillo Lab (Tec de Monterrey) generating nanostructured hydrogels using chemically-modified viral nanoparticles as biomaterials for tissue engineering applications. Besides doing research, Ivonne loves teachingsinging, traveling and going to the movies with friends.

Joel Grondek

Joel joined the Sailor Group in the Summer 2008, as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His thesis project involves synthesizing targeted nanoparticles to diagnose and treat myocardial infarction (in collaboration with co-advisor Karen Christman in the Department of Bioengineering) and diseases of the retina (in collaboration with Dr. William R. Freeman in the Jacobs Retina Center). The nanoparticles are designed to utilize a targeting peptide to accumulate in the region of damaged tissue for diagnostic T1 or T2 enhanced MR imaging, for fluorescence imaging, and/or for drug delivery.

Ella Lee

Ji Yoon "Ella" Lee is an undergraduate student (class of 2022) at UC San Diego majoring in Biochemistry/Chemistry who participated in the 2020 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology. She is interested in medical applications of nanomaterials.

Rachel Lee

Rachel Lee is an undergraduate (class of 2023) Biochemistry/Chemistry student at UC San Diego. She participated in the 2021 Spring Break Undergraduate Research Experience (a "mini RIMSE" program of the UC San Diego MRSEC), and in the 2021 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology (SSSiN), one of the UC San Diego MRSEC RIMSE research immersion programs. She is interested in exploring the uses of silicon nanotechnology as antibacterial therapeutics-delivery platforms.

Seth Mclaughlin

Seth is an undergraduate student (class of 2024) in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department at UC San Diego. His interests include structures and materials, and bioinspired design. His research experience includes a project on the bending and torsion mechanics of bird feathers, under the direction of Prof. Marc Meyers from the Nanoengineering department. Seth participated in the 2021 Spring Break Undergraduate Research Experience "mini RIMSE" program and is participating as a Mentor in the 2021 SSSiN.

Andrea Monroy-Borrego

Andrea is a Ph.D. Student in NanoEngineering, she joined the Steinmetz lab in September 2020 and obtained her B.S. in Biotechnology Engineering from Tecnológico de Monterrey, México, the same year. There she collaborated in multiple projects in the Alvarez & Trujillo Lab, specializing in the use of plant viral nanoparticles for bioprinting of dermal tissue. Andrea has collaborated in projects with Rice University and KAUST. Her current research focuses on engineering plant viral nanoparticles for agricultural applications. In addition, she loves rock climbing, hiking and finding the best boba tea. She is passionate about science policy and aims at joining it with her research, as well as outreach programs.

Seyedmehdi Hossaini Nasr

Mehdi Nasr received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Michigan State University in 2018, and began working as a post-doc in the laboratory of our collaborator, Erkki Ruoslahti in 2019. He received his Pharm.D. degree from Tehran University of Medical Science in 2007. He participated in the 2019 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology and joined the lab in July 2020.

Gabriella Stark

Gabriella is an M.S. Student in the UC San Diego Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, with a concentration in inorganic chemistry. She received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where her undergraduate research focused on folding-based DNA biosensors. Prior to joining UC San Diego, Gabriella worked in the Drug Delivery Division at 3M. She was a participant in the 2021 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology (SSSiN), one of the UC San Diego MRSEC RIMSE research immersion programs. Her thesis interests focus on loading and delivery of nucleic acid-based therapeutics using porous silicon nanoparticles.

Lisa Tang

Lisa is a first-year Ph.D. student studying Chemical Engineering in the department of NanoEngineering at UC San Diego. She is currently working with responsive soft materials in Professor Jinhye Bae's Lab. Before joining the lab, she received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2021.

David Wirth

David joined the Pokorski lab in 2018, a San Diego native with an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering, he began his career in Dr. Laurent Pilon's lab at UCLA where he developed novel re-startable solid rocket motors.  Following graduation he served 4 years in the Air Force as an engineering officer, and founded a company, Fabric8Labs based on his novel approach to electrochemical metal 3D printing.   He is currently working to develop novel techniques for bottom up manufacturing, 3D printing and nanobiotechnology.

Thaiesha Wright

Thaiesha is a postdoctoral researcher at the Pokorski Lab, working on mammalian cellular engineering utilizing ring opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) as a UC president’s postdoctoral fellow. She has a B.S. in chemistry from Spelman College. She later obtained her Ph.D. in chemistry from Miami University of Ohio under the direction of Prof. Dominik Konkolewicz and Prof. Richard Page by developing protein-polymer bioconjugates. Following this, she served as a chancellor’s postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado, Boulder under the direction of Prof. Joel Kaar. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, exploring new places, and baking.

Helen Zhang

Helen began her PhD studies in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at UCSD in Summer 2021, as a participant in the UC San Diego MRSEC RIMSE program. She obtained her B.S. in Biochemistry from California State University Long Beach in 2016, and she then worked as a topical formulations chemist, where she optimized drug delivery systems with various active ingredients. She was a participant in the 2021 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology (SSSiN), one of the UC San Diego MRSEC RIMSE research immersion programs. She is interested in silicon nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems, particularly their application in treatment of inflammatory conditions in cancer, infectious diseases, and injured tissues.

Trinity Zheng

Trinity joined the Pokorski lab in Fall 2015 to complete her MS degree working with viruses as fillers to strengthen nanocomposite hydrogels. Trinity began her PhD studies in Fall 2017, developing slow releasing devices for in situ cancer vaccination. Trinity received her bachelor degree from Beijing University of Chemical Technology and master's degree from Case Western Reserve University. Moving from Southern China to Northern China then North America, she is the one who truly loves change and adventures.