Welcoming the 2017 Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows

Reflecting the diversity of research conducted at the Beckman Institute, the 2017 class of Beckman Postdoctoral and the Beckman Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellows has research interests in materials science, chemistry, neuroscience, biology, physical fitness, and nanomaterials.

Vivian Lau has been named the Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow, which provides three years of funding for a postdoctoral student affiliated with the Beckman Institute. The fellowship is named in honor of Dr. Arnold O. and Mrs. Mabel Beckman, who provided the gift that created the Beckman Institute, and Theodore “Ted” Brown, founding director of the Beckman Institute.

Lau received her Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University in 2016. She is currently working as a postdoctoral research associate with Jeff Moore, a professor of chemistry, member of Beckman’s Autonomous Materials Systems Group, and interim director of the Institute.

Her research brings together chemical design, materials science, biophysics, and systems biology to develop and implement ‘sono-chemogenetics,’ a novel platform for ultrasound-induced exogenous control of genetic expression. Through fundamental studies of polymer mechanochemistry, a new drug delivery vehicle that releases bioactive small-molecules in response to ultrasound-generated mechanical force will be devised and evaluated in both in vitro and in vivo systems. She plans to continue to work with Moore and the Autonomous Materials Systems Group, as well as King C. Li, the dean of the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine and member of the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group at Beckman, and William O’Brien, a research professor in electrical and computer engineering and member of the Bioacoustics Research Laboratory.

The 2017 Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows have diverse research interests that span the Beckman research themes. The Fellows are Rachel (Klaren) Bollaert, Xing Jiang, Caterina Lamuta, Michelle Rodrigues, Courtney Sobieski, and Benjamin Zimmerman.

Rachel (Klaren) Bollaert will be receiving her Ph.D. in kinesiology and community health from the University of Illinois in May 2017. She is working as a graduate research assistant in the Exercise Neuroscience Research Laboratory. Her research interests focus on two topics: the associations of physical activity, sedentary behavior, brain volume and activation; and the effects of exercise training on physical and cognitive function and brain volume and activation in older adults with multiple sclerosis (MS). She plans to continue to work with Beckman faculty, with whom she already collaborates, including Manuel Hernandez, an assistant professor of kinesiology and community health and Elizabeth Stine-Morrow, a professor of educational psychology, both members of the Cognition, Lifespan Engagement, Aging, and Resilience (CLEAR) Group, and Brad Sutton, an associate professor of bioengineering and member of the Bioimaging Sciences and Technology Group.

Xing Jiang received his Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles, from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and has been working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois. Jiang proposes to continue his research in microfluidics, in particular by providing a new approach to microfluidic devices by optically generating and controlling patterns for fluid transportation, and to apply these novel devices to the understanding of weak protein-protein interactions in living cells. He plans to work with Martin Gruebele, a professor of chemistry and member of the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group, as well as Jeff Moore.

Caterina Lamuta will complete her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Calabria, Italy, this spring. Her research focuses on the mechanical characterization of materials by means of different computational and experimental techniques at different length scales. At the Beckman, she plans to work on the design, synthesis and characterization of self-healing artificial muscles for applications ranging from mechanical, to optical and biomedical. She will work with Narayana Aluru, a professor of mechanical engineering and member of the Computational Multiscale Nanosystems Group; Joseph Lyding, a professor of electrical engineering and member of the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group; Nancy Sottos, a professor of materials science and engineering, and Sameh Tawfick, an assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering, both members of the Autonomous Materials Systems Group; and Rohit Bhargava, a professor of bioengineering, and Stephen Boppart, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, both of the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

With a doctorate in anthropology from the Ohio State University, Michelle Rodrigues’ research focuses on endocrine and inflammatory correlates of resilience to incorporate neural and epigenetic approaches. At the Beckman Institute, she plans to study resilience in women of color in the sciences, an interdisciplinary project that integrates anthropological, psychological, and biological methods. She will work with Kate Clancy, an associate professor of anthropology, and Florin Dolcos, an associate professor of psychology, both members of the Social and Emotional Dimensions of Well-Being Group, as well as Elizabeth Stine-Morrow.

Courtney Sobieski received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Washington University in 2016, where she has been working as a researcher. She plans to investigate how astrocytic intracellular G-protein signaling affects synaptic transmission, neuronal excitability, and ultimately behavior. She plans to work with Catherine Christian, an assistant professor of molecular and integrative physiology and Justin Rhodes, an associate professor of psychology, both of the Cellular and Molecular Foundations of Intelligent Behavior Group, and Stephen Boppart and Parijat Sengupta, a research assistant professor in bioengineering, both of the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

Currently a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Fatima Husain, an associate professor of speech and hearing science and member of the Mechanisms of Cognitive Control Group, Benjamin Zimmerman proposes to focus on the cognitive neuroscience of cognitive control in humans using multi-modal neuroimaging. He plans to continue to work with Husain, as well as Monica Fabiani and Gabriele Gratton, professors of psychology, and also members of the Mechanisms of Cognitive Control Group; Aron Barbey, an associate professor of psychology, and Sepideh Friberg, an assistant professor of psychology, both members of the Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity Group; and Florin Dolcos and Brad Sutton.