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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

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Past IGB Fellows

Christopher Balakrishnan received his PhD in Biology from Boston University in 2005.  He then moved on to Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Scott Edwards.  Chris' early work emphasized studies of evolutionary biology in birds.  He used a combination of field studies and population genetics to study the mechanisms of diversification.  He moved to the University of Illinois in 2008.  As postdoctoral fellow and then research scientist in Dr. David Clayton's group he has been integrating his background in evolutionary biology with the behavioral and neurogenomic studies that are the focus of the Clayton Lab. Chris served as an IGB Fellow with the Genomics of Neural and Developmental Plasticity theme (now Gene Networks in Neural & Developmental Plasticity). He moved on to become an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University.

Nicholas Chia received his Ph.D. in Physics from Ohio State University in 2006. He was a postdoctoral researcher in the labs of Nigel Goldenfeld and Carl Woese at the Institute for Genomic Biology, where he examined the role of collective effects and emergent properties in biological systems. In 2008, he was named an IGB postdoctoral fellowship and worked with members of the Biocomplexity theme. Chia then became an Assistant Professor of Biophysics at Mayo Clinic.

Farhan Chowdhury received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the direction of Professor Ning Wang. His dissertation was focused on force directed fate decision making of embryonic stem cells. He became an IGB Fellow in May 2012 and is working closely with Professor Taekjip Ha and members of the Cellular Decision Making in Cancer (CDMC) research theme to investigate the underlying molecular mechanism of cell fate decisions using single molecule approaches. Farhan became an Assistant Professor at the Mechanical Engineering department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Melissa Cregger received her Ph.D in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the summer of 2012 from the University of Tennessee under the direction of Aimée Classen. Her dissertation was focused to understand how climatic change factors, precipitation change and increased temperature, altered bacterial and fungal community structure and function. Melissa joined the Institute for Genomic Biology in August of 2012, where she worked as an IGB Fellow in the Host-Microbe Systems theme before joining the Biocomplexity theme as a Fellow in June of 2013. Melissa then joined Oak Ridge National Lab.

James Davis earned his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the direction of Gary Olsen.  His dissertation was focused on using codon usage to study horizontal gene transfer. He was an IGB Fellow from August 2010 through August 2013, working closely with Carl Woese and members of the Biocomplexity theme to elucidate the patterns that characterize early evolution. Davis then became a Research Assistant at the University of Chicago Computation Institute and Argonne National Lab.

James Doroghazi received his Ph.D. in Microbiology from Cornell University in 2010 under the direction of Dan Buckley. For his dissertation work, he studied the population genetics and evolution of Streptomyces. He joined the Mining Microbial Genomes (MMG) theme in December 2010 as an IGB fellow, to work closely with MMG theme members to discover novel natural product genetic diversity and to elucidate common themes in secondary metabolite evolution. James became part of the Computational Life Science Portfolio group at Bayer CropScience.

Seema Ehsan received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Irvine in 2014. She became an IGB fellow in the Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering (RBTE) theme in November 2014. Her research focused on tumor engineering, and at the IGB she worked on models for glioblastoma multiforme, a particularly aggressive tumor. She moved on to become the Associate Program Manager of Regulatory Affairs at Genentech.

Courtney Fenlon received her PhD in Microbiology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2015 under the direction of Douglas Mitchell. Her dissertation research was focused on creating a method to quickly identify and isolate interesting bacterial produced antibiotics. Using this novel method, Courtney discovered an antibiotic called cyclothiazomycin C. She became and IGB fellow in the administration theme in August 2015 and worked alongside Melissa McKillip to develop and implement outreach opportunities at the IGB to become the IGB Outreach Activities Manager.

Christopher Fields received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois in 2008. He was a postdoctoral research associate at the Institute for Genomic Biology where he studied global gene expression in spermatogonial stem cells. He was an IGB Fellow in 2009 and worked in the Genomics of Neural and Developmental Plasticity Research theme (now Gene Networks in Neural & Developmental Plasticity). Chris became the Technical Lead in Genome Informatics within the HPCBio group at the IGB.

Nathan Gabrielson received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 2009.  He then became a postdoctoral research associate in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, where he worked to develop materials for gene and drug delivery applications. He was awarded an IGB postdoctoral fellowship in 2010 where he worked with members of the Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering (RBTE) theme, before becoming a lecturer for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Illinois.

Juntao Tony Gao received his Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from the University of Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany in 2005. In 2006, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Stower’s Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missouri and studied the dynamics of polarity proteins in budding yeast. He joined the Cellular Decision Making in Cancer theme in December 2010 as an IGB fellow. He went on to become a Research Assistant Professor at Tsinghua University.

Benjamin A. Garcia was named an IGB fellow in 2005 and worked with members of the Precision Proteomics research theme. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Virginia. In 2012 he was named the first Presidential Term Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He became a Presidential Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Benjamin M. Griffin received his Ph.D. in environmental toxicology and microbiology from Michigan State University in 2003. He became a postdoctoral fellow in the biology department at the Universitat Konstanz before joining the IGB in November 2005 where he worked with the Mining Microbial Genomes (MMG) research theme. He then became the Senior Director of Biobased Chemicals at Synthetic Genomics.

Sarath Chandra Janga received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, University of Cambridge in 2010.  He became an IGB Fellow in 2010 working with members of the Mining Microbial Genomes (MMG) theme to discover principles governing the function and evolution of antibiotics and natural products. He became an Assistant Professor at the School of Informatics at Indiana University and Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) at the Center for Computational Biology &  Bioinformatics.

Tor Jenson received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Northwestern University in 2004. He was a postdoctoral research associate in the biomolecular and chemical engineering department at the University of Illinois, and joined the IGB in December 2005. He worked closely with members of the Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering (RBTE) theme, and moved on to a Laboratory Manager position in the Biomedical Research Center in the Mills Breast Cancer Institute at Carle.

Jaebum Kim received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois in 2010. He joined the Institute for Genomic Biology in August 2010 as an IGB Fellow and worked closely with the members of the Cellular Decision Making in Cancer theme. He then accepted a position as Assistant Professor of the Department of Animal Biotechnology at Konkuk University.

Pan-Jun Kim received his Ph.D. in Physics from KAIST (South Korea) in 2008. He joined the IGB in October 2008 as an IGB Fellow working closely with members of the Molecular Bioengineering of Biomass Conversion Research Theme. His research focused on systems and synthetic biology, especially with genome-scale biochemical networks. He went on to become Adjunct Professor of Physics and Leader of the Junior Research Group at the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics (APCTP).

Andrew D.B. Leakey received his Ph.D. in plant sciences from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom in 2002. From 2002 to 2003, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Illinois, and he became an IGB Fellow in 2004, becoming an Associate Professor of Plant Biology and an IGB faculty in the Genomic Ecology of Global Change (GEGC) theme.

Sarah London received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California at Los Angeles in 2005. As an IGB Fellow, she worked with members of the Genomics of Neural and Developmental Plasticity theme (now Gene Networks in Neural & Developmental Plasticity), before becoming an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago.

Sua Myong received her Ph.D. in Nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002. She served as an IGB Fellow in the Precision Proteomics theme from 2007-2009, using imaging techniques to investigate various cellular processes at the single molecule level. She then joined the University of Illinois Department of Bioengineering faculty in 2009 as an Assistant Professor, as well as becoming a member of the IGB's Cellular Decision Making in Cancer research theme. Sua then moved on to become an Associate Professor in Biophysics at Johns Hopkins University.

Patrick O’donoghue received his Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Illinois. As an IGB Fellow in the Biocomplexity (BCXT) theme, he worked with researchers to understand how translation developed from some simpler state into the highly accurate and complex system observed in all cellular life today. He moved on to become a Research Associate with Dieter Söll at Yale.

Qiuhao Qu received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the Konstanz University in Germany under the direction of Dr. Winfried Boos.  She then became a research associate in the Departments of Cell and Developmental Biology and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois, where she worked to develop human neuronal differentiation models from hESCs and hiPSCs. She served as an IGB Fellow in the Genomics of Neural and Developmental Plasticity Research theme (now Gene Networks in Neural & Developmental Plasticity) in 2012.

Noah Reynolds received his Ph.D. in Microbiology from The Ohio State University under the direction of Michael Ibba. His dissertation research focused on comparative studies of translational quality control mechanisms. As a 2011 IGB Fellow, he worked in the Biocomplexity (BCXT) theme, before becoming a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University.

Brian San Francisco received his Ph.D. in Plant and Microbial Biosciences from Washington University in St. Louis in 2013 under the direction of Robert Kranz. He became an IGB fellow in the Mining Microbial Genomes (MMG) theme in 2014 and worked alongside members of the Enzyme Function Initiative (EFI), a large collaborative consortium funded by NIH that includes the University of California-San Francisco and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He is currently a Senior Consultant at Navigant in Chicago, Illinois.

Shobha Sharma received her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Innsbruck in Austria in 2000. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto before being named an IGB Fellow in the Host Microbe Systems theme. She then became a Staff Scientist at National Institutes of Health.

Zhen Shi received her Ph.D. in medical sciences from the University of South Florida in 2005. She joined the IGB in December of 2005 and worked on the metabolic engineering of industrially significant solventogenic clostridia and fiber degrading bacteria for increased biomass conversion efficiency. She then became a Researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.

Christopher James Thibodeaux received his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Texas, Austin, in 2010, where he studied the chemical and kinetic mechanisms of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. As a 2010 Fellow with the Cellular Decision Making in Cancer theme, he worked closely with the Taekjip Ha group to apply advanced cellular and molecular imaging techniques to investigate outstanding problems in cancer biology. Thibodeaux moved on to become an Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department at McGill University in Montreal.

Adaikkalam Vellaichamy received his Ph.D in Molecular Biology from the National University of Singapore in 2003, moving on to conduct postdoctoral research at the University of Michigan in work relating to cancer proteomics. He was named an IGB Fellow in the Precision Proteomics theme, serving from 2008 to 2010, before assuming an Assistant Member and Co-Director role at the Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston. He then became Associate Professor at the Centre for Biotechnology, Anna University, Chennai, India.

Bo Wang received his Ph.D. in Materials Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011 under the direction of Steve Granick. His dissertation was focused on using single molecule/particle imaging to elucidate transport phenomena in complex fluids ranging from entangled polymers to living cells. He became an IGB fellow in August 2011 and has worked with members of the Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering (RBTE) theme to understand the cellular organization and decision making in regeneration and development. Specifically, his research has focused on stem cells in two types of flatworms, the free-living planarian and the parasitic schistosome. Bo became an assistant professor in the Department of Developmental Biology at Stanford University.

Scott Woolbright received his Ph.D in Biology from Northern Arizona University under the direction of Tom Whitham. His dissertation research involved QTL mapping and candidate gene identification of cottonwood (Populus) leaf chemistry traits as part of a highly collaborative “genes to ecosystem” approach aimed at investigating the community and ecosystem consequences of trait variation in foundation species. He also conducted population genetic surveys of highly isolated and potentially relict stands of cottonwoods from “sky island” mountain ranges of the Great Basin and Mojave deserts. As a 2012 fellow in the Genomic Ecology of Global Change (GEGC) theme, Scott’s research was focused on climate related gene expression profiling. Scott moved on to become an Assistant Professor of Biology at University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Hsiao-shan Yang received her Ph.D. in Economics from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, under the direction of Zhiqiang Liu. Her dissertation research focused on the effects of productivity and industry evolution on manufacturing firms’ product diversification decision. She joined the Institute for Genomic Biology in October 2011 as an IGB Fellow in the Business, Economics, and Law of Genomic Biology theme, where she worked with theme members to explore issues in university-industry technology transfer, industry evolution, and the growth and regulations in biotechnology industry. She remained at Illinois to work as postdoc with the Energy Biosciences Institute before becoming an Economist/ Data Scientist
at Reis.

Suleyman Yildirim received his Ph.D. in Microbial Genomics in 2006 from North Carolina State University. He was a postdoctoral Research Associate at North Carolina State University in 2006, and at the Yale University School of Medicine from 2007 to 2008. He became an IGB Fellow in November 2008 and worked with members of the Host-Microbe Systems theme. He then became a Visiting Scientist with the J. Craig Venter Institute and a Senior Research Scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Amro Zayed received his Ph.D. in Biology in 2006 from York University.  He held a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Illinois’ Department of Entomology from 2006 to 2008, and then served as an IGB Fellow in the Neural & Behavioral Plasticity theme (now Gene Networks in Neural & Developmental Plasticity) from 2008 to 2009. He rejoined York University’s Department of Biology in 2009 as an Associate Professor of Biology, leading a research program on the genetics, genomics and behaviour of social insects using the honey bee as a model organism, serving as York Research Chair in Genomics beginning in 2016.