IRG1 Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers

Krista Balto

Krista is second-year graduate student in the department of Chemistry at UC San Diego. She works with Professor Joshua Figueroa on the synthesis of low valent m-terphenyl isocyanide coordination networks. Her specific project focuses on the synthesis of capping reagents (designer ligands) for the mesoscale assembly of inorganic nanocrystals. As an undergraduate, she worked on the synthesis of porous molecular cages under the guidance of Dr. Eric Bloch at the University of Delaware and graduated with honors B.S. in Chemistry in 2019.

Kyle Barcus

Kyle is a fourth-year Ph.D. student at the department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at UC San Diego. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2017. He is working on the synthesis and characterization of polymer/metal-organic framework hybrid nanoparticles, with a focus on their self-assembly into porous thin films.

Rourav Basak

Rourav is a third-year Ph.D. student in Professor Alex Fraño’s XLab in the Department of Physics at UC San Diego. Rourav is interested in order, defects, and excitations in strongly interacting systems.  Before joining UC San Diego, he earned his M.S. in Applied Physics from New York University, where he pursued such interests in Prof. L. A. Wray’s lab. Presently he is studying strongly interacting quantum systems, such as nickelates and cuprates, and strongly interacting classical systems, such as self-assembled nanoparticles in polymers and macro-molecular crystals in polymer networks. As a member of Xlab, Rourav uses various x-ray spectroscopy, microscopy, scattering (both elastic and inelastic) and correlation techniques to probe nanoscale and mesoscale systems.

Liya Bi

Li-Ya is a Ph.D. student of the Materials Science and Engineering Program. He currently works with Professor Shaowei Li on the statics and dynamics of single molecules on the metal surface with the Laser-Coupled STM.

Amanda Chen

Amanda is a Ph.D. student of Chemical Engineering program at the department of NanoEngineering at UC San Diego. Her research is centering on analyzing the molecular properties and thermodynamic properties via both quantum calculations and molecular dynamic simulations. Current works include analyzing the forcefield parameters of various molecules, the adsorption capacities of small molecules in metal-organic frameworks, and the thermodynamic properties of adsorbates/adsorbents. With the understanding of the practical inter- and intramolecular forces of a system, the research team is able to design an efficiently experimental procedure in the real world.

Alexandria Do


Dong Le (IRG1 Trainee Leadership Council Representative)

Dong is a first-year Ph.D. student in Professor Alex Fraño’s XLab in the Department of Physics at UC San Diego. She received her B.S. in NanoEngineering with a minor in Physics from UC San Diego in 2020. Dong is studying nonequilibrium dynamics in classical systems, such as assembly dynamics of solid-state nanocrystals and of genetically modified proteins in polymer networks. As a part of the Fraño group, she learns about different X-ray characterization techniques including scattering (both elastic and inelastic) and correlation to study dynamics of various material systems at the nano- to mesoscale.

Po-An Lin

Po-An Lin is a first-year Ph.D. student in Professor Gaurav Arya’s lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Po-An received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. His current research focus on applying machine learning on molecular simulation to predict the assembly behavior of polymeric nanoparticles.

Sharon Lin

Sharon is a postdoctoral researcher at the Seth Cohen lab in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego. Her current research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of hybrid materials containing polymers and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). She obtained her B.S. in Chemical and Biological Engineering at SUNY Buffalo, and later obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During her Ph.D., Sharon conducted research on polymer film morphology for gas separation applications.

Yui Na

Yui is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Chemical Biology program track at UC San Diego. Yui received her B.S in Pharmacological Chemistry at UC San Diego in 2019. She joined Professor Akif Tezcan’s lab to learn about protein self-assembly and to develop protein-based functional materials. Her current research focuses on polymer infused protein crystals.

Baharak Sayahpour

Baharak is a Ph.D. student in Materials Science and Engineering department at UC San Diego. She received her B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from University of Tehran and her M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with a research background in 2D materials synthesis and characterization. She is currently working on controlled-synthesis and advanced characterizations of energy storage materials for high energy density battery materials.

Bin Wang

Bin Wang received his PhD from UC Davis, where he worked with Professor Alexandra Navrotsky on the thermodynamics of halide perovskite systems. As a UC San Diego MRSEC postdoc fellow with Professor Andrea Tao, his current research focuses on designing/programming energy landscape for self-assembling shaped nanocrystals.

Yufei Wang

Yufei received her BS in Chemistry at Davidson College, North Carolina.


Yu Xie

Yu received his B.S. from ShanghaiTech University. He joined Professor Andrea Tao's research group in the Fall of 2019 as a graduate student in Nanoengineering. With the interest in self-assembly, he now focuses on the interfacial self-assembly of inorganic nanoparticles. He works to design the surface chemistry of nanoparticles, which affects the interaction between nanoparticles and the surrounding environment, to modulate the self-assembly patterns or even to get new materials.

Zhiying (Iris) Zhang

Iris received her B.S. in Chemistry from Zhejiang University, China, in 2018. She is a third-year graduate student in Professor Akif Tezcan’s lab at UC San Diego, and her research is focusing on protein self-assembly at interfaces.

Yilong Zhou

Yilong is a fourth-year PhD student in the department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science at Duke University. He received a B.S. from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (China) in 2013, and an M.S. from Clemson University in 2016. Yilong's current research is on the self-assembly of polymer-grafted nanoparticles and he is using both molecular dynamics simulations and powerful MC-based optimization algorithms to explore new strategies for self-assembling particles into unconventional arrangements to fabricate new functional materials.

Qingyi Zhu

Qingyi is a first-year M.S student in Chemistry. She received her Chemistry B.S at UC San Diego. She joined Shaowei Li's group in Fall, 2021.

IRG2 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

SEED Researchers

Guorui Cai

Guorui Cai received his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 2019 under the guidance of Prof. Hai-Long Jiang. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Zheng Chen's group at UC San Diego. His current research is focused on the design of MOF-based materials for heterogeneous catalysis, electrolyte chemistry, and functional separators for rechargeable batteries at extreme temperatures.


Alec Rachkov

Alexander is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Professor Alina Schimpf in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego. He received his B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Washington, where he started his research career under the supervision of Professor Daniel Gamelin and contributed to research studying the ferromagnetism of impurity-containing europium sulfide nanocrystals. His current research involves the synthesis and post-synthetic modification of tunable colloidal copper phosphide nanocrystals.

Jingcheng Zhou

Jingcheng is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sirbuly Lab, working on developing a nanofiber optic sensor for local nanomechanical environment measurement.  He received his Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology with Prof. Xingwei Wang at UMass Lowell. He got his M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Bridgeport. He completed a postdoc appointment at Jokerst's Lab at UCSD for building heparin-sensitive acoustic fibers to quantitate anticoagulants.

UC San Diego MRSEC Alumni

Kyle Bentz


Sigbjørn Bore

Sigbjørn is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at UC San Diego. He received his Ph.D. in computational chemistry at the University of Oslo in 2020. He is working on developing many-body-based coarse-grained models aimed at accurate and efficient computational exploration  of nucleation processes for water and metal-organic frameworks.

Eric Chung

Young Hun, or Eric, is a third year bioengineering student working in Dr. Nicole Steinmetz’s lab. In Dr. Steinmetz’s lab, Eric mainly works on using plant viral nanoparticles as immunotherapeutics against different cancers. Eric employs different bioconjugation techniques to conjugate targeting peptides as well as large proteins and fluorophores to his plant viral nanoparticles. Eric has also recently been using his plant viruses in SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. When not in lab, Eric enjoys watching basketball, soccer, and football, going to the beach, finding new restaurants, reading, and following the stock market.

Derek Church

Derek worked in Prof. Pokorski's lab as a postdoctoral researcher 2018 - 2021. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2010. He then moved up to Seattle and completed his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Washington in the lab of Professor Andrew J. Boydston developing functional polymers that could respond to stimuli such as heat and mechanical force. His current research is primarily focused on designing and synthesizing polymeric materials that integrate at the biology interface on the molecular level, with the aim of creating novel biologically active materials.

Amy Salyards

Amy is a second-year Chemistry Ph.D. student in Professor Francesco Paesani’s group at UC San Diego, and a member of the IRG1 group at MRSEC. She is working on modeling how metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) assemble with a focus on making molecular models for the individual components which will be used as a reference to build many-body coarse-grained models. She graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of West Georgia in 2019.