Postdoctoral Fellows

Every year, the Beckman Institute offers several postdoctoral fellows programs to support young scientists at the Beckman Institute: the Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows Program, the Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellows Program, and the Carle Foundation Hospital-Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows Program.

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. The Carle Foundation Hospital–Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship was established in 2008 with funding from Carle Foundation Hospital to recruit outstanding young scientists to work on translational biomedical research. 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.


2018 Postdoctoral Fellows

Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow

Jamila Hedhli
Hedhli has been named the 2018 Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow. Hedhli received her Ph.D. in bioengineering in May from the University of Illinois. She plans to develop gas-filled “smart bubbles” for ultrasound imaging of ovarian cancer with the ultimate goal of transforming the biomedical imaging landscape through the development of ultrasound probes, which will enable medical practitioners to use ultrasound to accurately diagnose diseases. Hedhli plans to work with Jeff Chan, an assistant professor of chemistry; Wawrzyniec Dobrucki, an assistant professor of bioengineering; King Li, the dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine; and Michael Oelze, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Carle Foundation Hospital-Beckman Institute Fellows

Aaron Anderson
Anderson received his Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics in May from the University of Illinois. Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) is uniquely capable of noninvasive imaging the material properties of brain tissue and has proven sensitive to a number of physiological changes and diseases. His research aims to improve specificity through higher-order material models for improved clinical outcomes. He will work with Brad Sutton, a professor of bioengineering, and Dr. Graham Huesmann, a neurologist and epileptologist at Carle Foundation Hospital and a research assistant professor of molecular and integrative physiology at Illinois.

Jianfeng Wang
Wang received his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering in 2017 from the National University of Singapore. In his research, he plans to use cellular-resolution wide-field polarization-sensitive volumetric optical coherence tomography (PSV-OCT) in order to significantly improve the detection sensitivity and specificity of positive breast tumor margins. He will work with Stephen Boppart, Liang Gao, and Minh Do from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Drs. Anna Higham and Kimberly Cradock from Carle Surgical Oncology; and Dr. George Liu from Carle Pathology.

Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows

The 2018 Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows have diverse research interests that span the Beckman research themes:

Kevin Clark
Clark received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Iowa State University in June 2018. His research focuses on developing methods to elucidate with single-nucleotide resolution the functional role of RNA modifications in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disease. He will work with Jonathan Sweedler, a professor of chemistry; Stephanie Ceman, an associate professor of cell and developmental biology; Aleksei Aksimentiev, an associate professor of physics; and Martha Gillette, a professor of cell and developmental biology.

Ryan Hubbard
A 2017 graduate from the University of Illinois, Hubbard received his Ph.D. in psychology. His previous research used novel paradigms and electrophysiological imaging to study prediction in language. As a Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Hubbard will use multimodal imaging techniques and advanced signal processing to investigate a cognitive process (event segmentation) that impacts many aspects of human experience, including perception, memory, and language. He plans to work with Lili Sahakyan, an associate professor of psychology; Florin Dolcos, an associate professor of psychology; and Paris Smaragdis, an associate professor of computer science.

Matthew Moore
Moore graduated in 2018 from the University of Illinois with a Ph.D. in psychology. He will work with Brad Sutton, a professor of bioengineering; Gabriele Gratton, a professor of psychology; and Dolcos. He also will collaborate with other Beckman faculty members Aron Barbey, an associate professor of psychology, and Sepideh Sadaghiani, an assistant professor of psychology. His project will help clarify the spatio-temporal dynamics of neural mechanisms underlying socio-emotional functioning using tri-modal simultaneous brain imaging. The resulting data sets will help elucidate the link between complex behaviors and their neural substrates.

Tian “Autumn” Qiu
Qiu graduated in May 2018 from the University of Minnesota with a Ph.D.in chemistry. Her current research focuses on how bacterial cells respond to nano-scale materials at molecular levels. At Beckman, her project will use advanced analytical platforms and animal models to understand the “language,” namely signaling molecules, that gut microbiota uses to “talk” with nervous systems in order to delineate the role of gut microbiota in animal brain and health. She will work with Sweedler, Gillette, and Nathan Schroeder, an assistant professor of crop sciences, as well as Huimin Zhao, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

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.

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.

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

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, and Si On Yoon.

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.

Postdoctoral Fellows Alumni