Leadership Team

Michael Sailor


UC San Diego Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and co-Director of the UC San Diego Institute for Materials Discovery and Design. He holds Affiliate Appointments in the Bioengineering, the Nanoengineering, and the Materials Science and Engineering programs at UC San Diego. Other appointments include: Invited Professor, CNRS Institut Charles Gerhardt in Montpellier, France (2012); Visiting Professor, High Level Talent Program, Key Laboratory of Organosilicon Chemistry and Material Technology, Hangzhou Normal University, China (2018-2020); and Visiting Professor, Zhejiang University, China (2019-2020).

Andrea Tao

IRG 1: Predictive Assembly

Tao joined the NanoEngineering Dept in 2009 where she focused on nanocomposites and plasmonics.  Her interest in materials chemistry piqued in high school while volunteering in the chemistry lab of Michael Sailor. As an undergraduate, Tao had the opportunity to work in George Whitesides’s group and learn about self-assembly. She decided to pursue her interest in both inorganic chemistry and self-assembly during her doctoral work at Berkeley, working with Peidong Yang. Her thesis focused on the synthesis and assembly of shaped metal nanoparticles. After working with solid-state materials for five years, Tao studying marine proteins in Daniel Morse’s group at UC Santa Barbara. She studied the properties of proteins found in the skin of cephalopods (like squid and octopus) that contribute to the ability of these sea creatures to camouflage themselves.

Jonathan Pokorski

IRG 2: Living Materials

Pokorski earned B.S. in Biochemistry from UCLA in 2002. While there, he worked in private industry designing and testing biomedical devices that are currently in use around the world. Pokorski received his doctoral degree in organic chemistry from Northwestern University in 2007, where he designed, synthesized, and tested diverse peptidomimetic systems for use in medical diagnostics and therapeutics. During postdoctoral training, Dr. Pokorski first earned an NIH Ruth Kirschstein fellowship and later secured an NIH Pathway to Independence Award. Pokorski’s laboratory works to bridge chemical synthesis, molecular biology, and materials science to make new materials for biomedical applications. The Pokorski lab is particularly interested in marrying protein and polymer science to generate new materials for drug delivery, imaging, and vaccination.

Nicole Steinmetz

IRG2: Living Materials

Steinmetz, UC San Diego professor of NanoEngineering, started her independent career at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and trained at The Scripps Research Inst. where she was a NIH K99/R00 awardee and AHA post-doctoral fellow; she obtained her PhD in Bionanotechnology from the University of East Anglia where she prepared her dissertation as a Marie Curie Early Stage Training Fellow at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK.

Steinmetz is a standing member of the NIH Nanotechnology study section.  She serves on the editorial board of Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) on Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology; she serves on the Advisory Editorial Board for the ACS journal Molecular Pharmaceutics and RSC Journal of Materials Chemistry B.

Tod Pascal

IRG1: Predictive Assembly

Pascal is an Asst. Professor of NanoEngineering and Chemical Engineering; affiliate faculty of Materials Science and Engineering and the Sustainable Power and Energy Center. His research group advances theoretical and computational methods to elucidate the structure and dynamics of electro-chemical systems, disorder in condensed phase systems and spectroscopy at molecular interfaces.

Pascal graduated from the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech where he conducted research in various areas of molecular simulations of biological and inorganic nanostructures, advancing efficient approaches for predicating free energies of these systems. His postdoc at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, focused on the development of water desalination membranes. He then joined the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab where he worked on characterizing the solution phase chemistries of next generation batteries from first principles simulations and predicting the properties of solid/liquid interfaces using simulated core-level spectroscopy.

Shirley Meng


Meng received her Ph.D. in Advanced Materials for Micro & Nano Systems from the Singapore-MIT Alliance in 2005, after which she worked as a postdoc research fellow and became a research scientist at MIT. Meng currently holds the Zable Endowed Chair Professor in Energy Technologies and is Professor of NanoEngineering and Materials Science, UC San Diego. She is the founding Director of Sustainable Power and Energy Center (http://spec.ucsd.edu). Her research group – Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion (LESC) – focuses on functional nano and micro-scale materials for energy storage and conversion. The more recent programs include the design, synthesis, processing, and operando characterization of energy storage materials in advanced rechargeable batteries; new intercalation materials for sodium ion batteries; and advanced flow batteries for grids large scale storage.

Stacey Brydges

Education and Outreach

Brydges is a Teaching Professor and Vice Chair of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Climate in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego, and an Adjunct Professor of the San Diego State University/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Mathematics and Science Education. She received her Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from McMaster University (Hamilton, ON, Canada) in 2003 and served as an associate research scientist and lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at Columbia University in the City of New York (2004-2008) before joining the faculty at UC San Diego. Her program of chemical education research and practice has three major strands: (1) evidence-based chemistry lab and lecture pedagogy and curriculum reform at the introductory level; (2) STEM educator (K-12 teacher, graduate TA, and faculty) socialization, collaboration, and professional development; and (3) programming that advances access to, and retention in, STEM education and careers, particularly for women, underrepresented minorities, and two-year college transfer students.

Sharon Franks

Senior Director, RPDS

Franks has served UC San Diego since 1993, as the founding director of RPDS since 2008. She has contributed to the success of numerous multi-investigator research initiatives, and to extramural awards totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Franks provides guidance and in-depth support for the development of research proposals to public and private sponsors, across all fields. In addition to major proposal development, Sharon’s foci include professional development for early-career investigators and assistance to those at all levels in identifying and pursuing relevant funding opportunities. Franks holds a Ph.D. in Oceanography from Oregon State University and a B.A. in Earth Sciences from Dartmouth College.