UW MolE Welcomes 2021 Cohort

Filed Under: MolE PhDNews

Join us in welcoming our 8th cohort of future molecular engineers! The 2021 cohort consists of nine students with backgrounds in either engineering or the natural sciences, all of whom are interested in developing innovative molecular-based solutions to pressing grand challenges. Learn more about our newest trainees and their current research interests below.

Larissa Ault

Larissa is interested in designing de novo proteins that can modulate and stimulate powerful immune responses. By engineering immune responses, she wants to circumvent immunodeficiencies present in chronic diseases, improve vaccine efficacy, and tailor individual immune systems to be a ’natural therapeutic’. As an undergraduate, Larissa performed research in a variety of fields such as retroviral genetics, cancer cell biology, immunotherapy cure strategies for HIV chronic infection, and computational approaches for studying antibody development following vaccination. After obtaining her B.S. in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, she completed a 2-year postbac at the NIH Vaccine Research Center, where she learned how to use yeast display to engineer improved antibodies against HIV for use in passive immunization. As a MolE PhD student, she plans to master protein engineering techniques in order to improve immune responses as well as expand her experience in biotechnology entrepreneurship in hopes of co-founding a start-up company dedicated to these pursuits. Larissa is a recipient of the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute Director’s Fellowship.

Gabrielle Balistreri

Gabrielle’s research interests center around innovative applications of nanotechnology such as translational research and biomedical applications involving therapeutics and diagnostics for critical diseases. As an undergrad, she characterized porous silicon materials using Dynamic Light Scattering, Fourier Transform-Infrared Spectroscopy, Raman Spectroscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy to develop an alternative imaging technique for human diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumors. At the University of Washington, she hopes to continue research on nanomaterials for biomedical advancements. She received her B.S. in Chemistry at the University of California San Diego.

Olivia Dotson

Olivia is interested in developing nanotherapeutics with impactful biological applications in an interdisciplinary environment. As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, she studied cell-free protein expression with Dr. Allen Liu before transitioning to work with Dr. Lola Eniola-Adefeso on both rigidified red blood cells and fabricating nanoparticles. She also briefly worked in the lab of Dr. Megan Lord at the University of New South Wales studying enzymatic degradation of the endothelial glycocalyx. Olivia is a recipient of a 2021 UW College of Engineering Dean’s Fellowship. She received a BSE in Chemical Engineering with an International minor from the University of Michigan

Jacob Gershon

Jacob is interested in using the principles of synthetic biology and protein engineering to address prominent issues facing our world including environmental rehabilitation, clean water, and the sustainable manufacturing of textiles, goods, and chemicals. Previously, he worked in a cardiac tissue engineering lab, differentiating stem cells into heart muscle and constructing 3D tissues. He is excited to enter a new field of science and explore the many applications of synbio. In his free time he likes to sew, ski, and go thrifting. The future is sustainable.

Adam Chazin-Gray

Adam is interested in using synthetic biology to help solve different environmental issues ranging from plastic waste accumulation to climate change. He worked on a project at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory studying bacterial genome remodeling approaches, helped engineer gut bacteria to treat chronic diseases at Novome Biotechnologies, and most recently used metabolic engineering approaches to sustainably produce bioplastics at the Joint Bioenergy Institute. He is also interested in how scientists can help enhance environmental education here in the United States and around the world through science writing, community outreach, and other educational approaches. He holds a B.A. in Biology & Neuroscience from Oberlin College.

LeAnn Le

LeAnn is interested in materials-based applications of biomolecules and wants to work on projects that utilize biological materials to improve biomedical device design or environmental sustainability. While attending UCLA for her undergrad, she conducted research with Professor Hong Z. Zhou, utilizing cryo-EM techniques to understand the mechanics of host-viral fusion in Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV). In addition to her research at UCLA, LeAnn worked with Dr. Alon Gorodetsky at the University of California, Irvine where she investigated various bioengineering applications of novel cephalopod protein Reflectin; her two main projects focused on Reflectin’s biocompatibility with neural stem cells and use of TEM and Tomocube imaging to elucidate structural and optical properties of Reflectin. LeAnn is a recipient of the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute Director’s Fellowship. She holds a B.S. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Quoc Tran

Quoc’s research interests lie in synthetic biology and biocomputing. He wants to engineer biological systems and replicate basic electronic components and circuits in living cells to build more complex tools and create biological systems with novel functions. At UC San Diego, he worked in the Hasty lab, developing synthetic biology parts and tools in yeast by constructing, optimizing, and characterizing a wide range of inducible promoter systems. He holds a B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology and an M.S. in Biology from the University of California, San Diego.

Jessie Zhao

Jessie is interested in developing computational methods to design new protein binders and protein materials for therapeutic applications. As an undergraduate, she used yeast surface display to develop protein engineering design technology in the Wittrup Laboratory at MIT. Subsequently, she worked in the biotechnology industry including at early-venture-startup Ab Initio Biotherapeutics where she designed therapeutic antibodies against G-protein coupled receptors and at Genentech where she worked on large molecule pharmaceutical development. She is a recipient of a 2021 UW College of Engineering Dean’s Fellowship. Jessie received a B.S. in Chemical-Biological Engineering from MIT.

Marlo Zorman

Marlo is interested in utilizing computational tools for drug development and protein design. During his undergrad, he used molecular dynamics simulations to study DNA and peptide-based biomaterials in collaboration with experimentalists. He greatly enjoys collaborating with experimentalists and scientists outside his immediate field, and hopes to continue doing so. He holds a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Vermont.

View all current molecular engineering students here.