Postdoctoral Fellows

Created in 2016, the Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral 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. Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows are selected for terms of up to three years. Postdoctoral Fellows that are currently working at the Beckman Institute are listed below.


2017 Postdoctoral Fellows

Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow


Vivian Lau

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

Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows

The 2017 Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows have diverse research interests that span the Beckman research themes. Their research interests include materials science, chemistry, neuroscience, biology, physical fitness, and nanomaterials.

Rachel (Klaren) Bollaert

Bollaert earned 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 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 Science and Technology Group.

Xing Jiang

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

Lamuta completed 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 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.

Michelle Rodrigues

With a doctorate in anthropology from the Ohio State University, 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

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.

Benjamin Zimmerman

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, 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 Sadaghiani, an assistant professor of psychology, both members of the Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity Group; and Florin Dolcos and Brad Sutton.

2016 Postdoctoral Fellows

Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow


Lydia Kisley
Kisley received the inaugural Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellowship. She earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Rice University in 2015. Her research interests lie in using novel spectroscopic techniques to understand and inspire engineering of materials. Kisley’s research uses fast relaxation imaging spectroscopy to study protein folding at polymer brush and hydrogel materials important in biosensor and medical device industries. Further interests lie in applying this approach to a variety of materials and devices, such as tissue engineering scaffolds and drug delivery materials. She has been working as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois with Deborah Leckband, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Martin Gruebele, a professor of chemistry. She plans to work with Paul Braun, a professor of materials science and engineering, and Leckband, both from the 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group, and Gruebele from the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group.

Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows

The 2016 Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows have diverse research interests that span the Beckman research themes: from bioengineering, chemistry, and materials science to language processing and neuroscience. The 2016 Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows are James Checco, Junlong Geng, Kenneth Hernandez-Burgos, Si On Yoon, and Yue Zhuo.

James Checco
Checco received a Ph.D. in chemistry with a focus in chemical biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015. He has been working as a postdoctoral associate for Jonathan Sweedler in the NeuroTech Group. Checco's research seeks to characterize neuropeptides that contain rare but functionally important post-translational modifications. He is currently developing analytical tools to study neuropeptides that contain D-amino acid residues. As long-term objectives, Checco aims to understand the functional roles and biochemical signaling pathways for D-amino acid-containing peptides in several animals, which may ultimately reveal new therapeutic targets in humans to treat disease. He plans to work with Sweedler, Martha Gillette, Rhanor Gillette, and Justin Rhodes, all of the NeuroTech Group, as well as Phillip Newmark, professor of cell and developmental biology.

Junlong Geng
Geng received his Ph.D. in 2014 in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the National University of Singapore. He has been working as a research scientist at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore. Geng’s research spans chemistry, materials science, biology, and imaging. His focus is on the synthesis of fluorescent noparticles and multifunctional nanocomposites for bioimaging, biosensing, therapeutic, and drug screening applications. At Beckman institute, he plans to synthesize biocompatible and biodegradable nanoparticle probes for ratiometric detection and monitor cancer-related biological targets at various levels from molecules to cells and tissue. He plans to work with Stephen Boppart from the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group, Paul Braun from the 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group, Jeffrey Moore from the Autonomous Materials Systems Group, and Jefferson Chan from the Department of Chemistry.

Kenneth Hernandez-Burgos
Hernandez-Burgos received his Ph.D in analytical chemistry from Cornell University in 2015. His research interests are centered on the search for new materials for electrical energy storage and generation devices, such as secondary batteries, supercapacitors and fuel cells. His goal is to use highly-soluble and size-defined polyvinyl amine (PA) redox active polymers (RAP), and their derivatives, to reversibly solvate electrons created at an electrode surface and charge/discharge them from the polymer. Solvated electrons offer a competitive advantage over other possible storage motifs due to their redox potential and low molecular weight. Nonetheless, they have not been studied for redox flow batteries because they are typically generated in amino-containing solvents, which are difficult to handle. Therefore, He is interested in understanding how their confinement in a PA-RAP can overcome these challenges, and how advanced chemical design informed through computational studies can improve their redox properties. He plans to work with Joaquín Rodríguez-López in UIUC Chemistry department in collaboration with Jeffrey Moore from the Autonomous Materials Systems Group, and Catherine Murphy from the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group.

Si On Yoon
Yoon will receive her doctorate in psychology from the University of Illinois in May. Her research interests include complex language processes, such as how people use social-pragmatic information in conversation. To thoroughly understand the mechanisms underlying social-pragmatic language use while communicating, she plans three interdisciplinary projects: 1) tracking how children develop the ability to incorporate social-pragmatic cues in conversation; 2) examining when and why this ability declines and what factors support efficient language use in older adults; and 3) uncovering brain mechanisms important for pragmatic language by using electrophysiological measures (EEG & ERPs) during task-based communication. The findings will have broad implications, including understanding language use in distinct populations (e.g., in autism and Alzheimer's), and building machines that we can naturally converse with, in which social-pragmatic reasoning plays a crucial role. She plans to work with Kara Federmeier and Daniel Hyde from the Cognitive Neuroscience Group, Cynthia Fisher from the Cognitive Science Group, and Elizabeth Stine- Morrow from the Human Perception and Performance Group.

Yue Zhuo
Zhuo received her Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Illinois in 2015. She is interested in developing and optimizing a dynamic and quantitative label-free imaging platform for monitoring live cell adhesion. This includes designing and optimizing nanophotonic-based biosensors, developing advanced biosensor imaging approaches and associated image analysis tools, and modeling cell-substrate interactions during adhesion, migration, differentiation, and apoptosis for cancer cells and stem cells. She plans to work with Professor Brian T. Cunningham from the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory and Beckman's Nanoelectronics and Nanotechnology Group, and Professor Paul Scott Carney and Professor Zhi-Pei Liang from the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

2015 Postdoctoral Fellows

Ana Daugherty
Daugherty received her Ph.D. in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience from Wayne State University in 2014. She has spent the last year working as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State. She is interested in cellular non-heme iron accumulation as a cause of progressive neural and cognitive decline that typifies aging, and its interaction with cardiovascular risk factors that are known to exacerbate decline. To examine these factors, she uses multi-modal neuroimaging, cognitive assessment, and advanced statistics to characterize differential brain aging, with a particular interest in the hippocampal formation and its diverse subfields. Daugherty plans to examine the potential protective effects of physical activity against metabolic vascular risk to potentially abate or even reverse the ill effects on cognitive function. At the Beckman Institute, she plans to work with Neal Cohen in the Cognitive Neuroscience Group, Art Kramer and Edward McAuley of the Human Perception and Performance Group, and Brad Sutton of the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

Daniel Kleinman
Kleinman received his Ph.D. in 2013 in psychology and cognitive science from the University of California, San Diego. He has been working as a postdoctoral researcher in the UC San Diego Department of Psychology. His research has addressed three questions: first, how does attention affect language production in bilinguals and monolinguals? Second, how are bilinguals so successful at speaking in their intended language? Third, what kinds of expectations do comprehenders form during language comprehension and how do these expectations interface with the production system?

At the Beckman Institute, Kleinman plans to investigate how the attentional requirements of language processing may allow bilinguals and monolinguals to produce and comprehend hard-to-access words more easily in connected speech than in isolation. He plans to work with Gary Dell, Darren Tanner, and Jennifer Cole from the Cognitive Science Group, as well as Kara Federmeier and Gabriele Gratton from the Cognitive Neuroscience Group.

Fan Lam
Lam will receive his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering in May 2015 from the University of Illinois. His research focuses on developing models, algorithms, and theoretical analysis for sparse sampling, de-noising and parameter estimation in applications to magnetic resonance (MR)-based neuroimaging. He plans to develop and apply MR spectroscopic imaging, functional imaging and quantitative diffusion imaging techniques to study brain function. At the Beckman Institute, he plans to work with Brad Sutton and Zhi-Pei Liang, from the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group; and Gene Robinson, of the NeuroTech Group.

Limei Tian
Tian's research focuses on the design, synthesis and hierarchical assembly of inorganic materials, and their integration with organic materials for various optoelectronic applications. Specifically, she envisions a multimodal sensing system by integrating wireless passive antennas with a powerful optical sensing platform, namely, surface-enhanced Raman scattering. Tian received her Ph.D. from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Washington University in 2014. She plans to work with John Rogers and Paul Braun from the 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group, as well as Rohit Bhargava from the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group.

Yingjie Zhang
Zhang will receive a Ph.D. degree in applied science and technology from UC Berkeley in May 2015. His Ph.D. research focused on solution-processed electronic materials, where nanoscale building blocks are assembled into functional materials for energy applications. He used various scanning probe-based imaging and spectroscopy techniques to study the electronic structure of individual building blocks (organic molecules or semiconductor quantum dots), and map out the energetic and spatial pathways of charge transport. He also explored novel colloidal quantum dot-based optoelectronic devices based on the percolation transport mechanism with untraditional design of defects. Zhang plans to work with Martin Gruebele, Xiuling Li, and Joseph Lyding of the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group at Beckman, where his research will be extended to the angstrom scale. He plans to perform atomic-scale imaging of two dimensional electronic materials, and seek novel quantum device applications such as quantum memory, computing, transistor and sensing, harnessing the charge, spin, and valley degrees of freedom.

2014 Postdoctoral Fellows

Tomasz Wrobel
Tomasz’s research interests center on the use of infrared (IR) and raman imaging in application to biomedical studies. He has experience in spectroscopic techniques, which he worked on for his doctoral dissertation at the Faculty of Chemistry at Jagiellonian University in Poland. At the Beckman Institute, he plans to develop a platform for imaging prostate cancer tissues using IR spectroscopy with very high spatial resolution. He plans to work with Rohit Bhargava and Scott Carney in the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group, and Minh Do in the Image Formation and Processing Group.

John Biggan
John recently completed a postdoctoral appointment at the Center for Healthy Living and Longevity at University of Texas at Arlington. He focuses on successful aging through exercise. His research plans to investigate the effects of irisin, which is produced in skeletal muscle and travels via the circulatory system to the brain where it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). At the Beckman, he plans to work with Neal Cohen from the Cognitive Neuroscience Group; Art Kramer and Edward McAuley from Human Perception and Performance; and Justin Rhodes, from Neurotech.

Postdoctoral Fellows Alumni