Postdoctoral Fellows

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.

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, 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
Gegn 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.

Maxwell Robb
Robb is interested in developing functional materials that respond to mechanical force to enable autonomic self-signaling and self-healing functionality. Robb received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014, and has been working as a postdoctoral research associate with Jeffrey Moore, professor of chemistry and a member of Beckman's Autonomous Materials Systems (AMS) Group. Robb plans to continue to work with Moore, as well as Nancy Sottos and Scott White of the AMS 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

Jason Patrick
Jason’s research interests span a variety of technical disciplines ranging from structural engineering, materials science, computational mechanics, experimental characterization, and recently microelectronics. Jason received his Ph.D. from Illinois in civil engineering (structures) in November 2014. His research will focus on the development of authentic biomimetic materials that inherit the evolutionary advantages of dynamic, natural counterparts. He plans to work with a truly multidisciplinary team at Beckman: Stephen Boppart, from Integrative Imaging; Jeffrey Moore, Nancy Sottos, and Scott White, from the Autonomous Materials Systems Group, and John Rogers, from the 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group.

Semin Lee
For a hobby, Semin enjoys playing around with molecular building blocks to make new structures. Through his doctoral studies in chemistry at Indiana University, he has learned that this hobby is useful when the molecules have functional applications and becomes even more interesting when they are easy to synthesize: like cyanostar macrocycles that bind anions. Semin plans to work with Rohit Bhargava in the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group and Jeffrey Moore in the Autonomous Materials Systems Group. His initial research plan is to synthesize imaging probes that may help elucidate the sequence of protein signaling in breast cancer progression.

Gillian Hamilton
Since receiving her Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from the University of Delaware in 2012, Gillian has been working as a postdoctoral researcher in Justin Rhodes’ lab. She is interested in cellular plasticity in the normal/healthy brain versus the diseased brain and how alterations in brain plasticity impact behavior. Her dissertation focused on the long-term adverse effects of fetal alcohol exposure on the brain and explored the potential beneficial impact of behavioral therapies. Her research at the Beckman will be done in conjunction with Justin Rhodes in the Neurotech Group, and John Rogers in 3D Micro- and Nanosystems. She plans to determine the functional significance of exercise and/or environmentally complexity-induced newly generated neurons in the improved performance on hippocampal dependent tasks in a mouse model of fetal alcohol exposure.

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.

2013 Postdoctoral Fellows

Abhishek Singharoy
Singharoy is a graduate student of theoretical chemistry at Indiana University. His research focuses on two modern fields, biophysics of viruses and multiscale simulation. His research at the Beckman focuses on molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, which provide biomedical researchers with a new perspective on the dynamics of cellular processes hitherto inaccessible by observation. The proposed study aims at developing a Molecular Dynamics Flexible Fitting (MDFF) software that interprets poorly resolved structures from X-ray crystallography experiments. This software, xMDFF, is able to refine the phase angles in order to derive atomic models from X-ray data. With this, ADP binding/release induced conformational change in the molecular motor protein dynein will be studied. The research is being performed under the auspices of Wen-Mei W. Hwu in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Klaus Schulten from the Theoretical and Computation Biophysics group.

Postdoctoral Fellows Alumni