Meet the team. Updated August 2018.

Principal Investigator

Andrew Ellington

Andrew Ellington is the Fraser Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. He is perhaps best known for the invention of the word "aptamer," but is now most involved in the development and evolution of artificial life, including nucleic acid operating systems that can function both in vitro and in vivo.







Postdoctoral Researchers


Anna Simon

"I am a postdoc and my work focuses on developing new strategies for gene editing, evolution, and synthetic protein design. Nature has developed intricate strategies for editing, evolving, and manipulating genes gene products, many of which have been repurposed in synthetic biotechnologies. My work focuses on two nature-inspired strategies, one using both faithful and error-prone transcription of natural retroelements to edit and evolve genomes, and one using supercharging to assemble proteins into highly organized, synthetic oligomers."

Ross Thyer

I completed a B.Sc. and Ph.D. at the University of Western Australia and joined the Ellington lab in 2013. My research interests include the development of biosynthesis pathways and translation machinery for the incorporation of unconventional and unnatural amino acids. I also enjoy beer, rock climbing and frogs!



Technical Staff

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Sanchita Bhadra

"I engineer nucleic acids and proteins into molecular diagnostic devices for detection of infectious and metabolic diseases. My focus is on early and accurate diagnostics not only for presetting therapeutic intervention in clinics but with a broader goal of making diagnostics more affordable and amenable for point-of-care application."

Michelle Byrom

Michelle Byrom received a BS in Microbiology, with Honors, at the University of Texas at Austin. She worked as a research assistant at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Science Park Research Center for ten years, and joined the Ellington Lab in 2008. Currently, Michelle works on the development of novel biotechnologies for detecting RNA and DNA biomarkers.



Cody McLeland

“I joined the Ellington lab in a collaboration with ARL-S in early 2018. Since then, I’ve been working on biomaterials projects involving microbial electricity production and bioadhesives . When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy getting to know the Austin area, mostly through it’s food and landscape. I also enjoy the occasional video game if time permits!”



Graduate Students


Stella Wang

"I am a graduate student in the lab (joined 2017). My research interests include DNA computing, nucleic acid rational design, and hybridization biophysics. My current projects include characterization of nucleic acid variant thermodynamics using hacked Next-Generation Sequencing chips and distributed in vitro transcriptional circuits for pattern transformation."

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Erhu Xiong

"I graduated with a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from Hunan University and joined the lab in 2016. My research mainly focuses on the development of cheap and easy-to-use electrochemical and fluorescent biosensors based on cascade signal amplification strategy by using nucleic acids circuits for the detection of proteins, nucleic acids, metal ions, and small molecules."


Alex Boulgakov

"I'm a visiting member from the Marcotte lab down the hall. In the Ellington lab. I'm currently developing
novel approaches to single molecule proteomics"



Shaunak Kar

I am a Cell and Molecular Biology graduate student. Apart from being an avid sports fan (especially soccer), I work on developing transcription-based circuits capable of function in a wide variety of organisms.

Austin Cole

Austin Cole graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2015 then joined the lab under co-supervision with James Bull in 2016. He's broadly interested in engineering bacterial communication and understanding genetic constraints of evolution. Outside science Austin enjoys hiking, exercise, jazz, and literature.

Elizabeth (Liz) Gardner


Raghav Shroff



Undergraduate Students


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Ted Rodriguez

"I am an chemistry/philosophy major who joined the lab in spring 2018. My current research is directed towards finding aptamers for diagnostic, therapeutic, and other varying uses. Outside of lab I am a mentor for aptamer research to other undergraduate students and I enjoy reading, beating my roommates at board games, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain.


Pia Sen

"I am an undergraduate student at UT, and am in the class of 2020. I work on enzyme identification and gene knockouts. Outside of the lab, I’m on the UT debate team and I like adopting cats."

Administrative Assistant

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Jenna Texeira

"I graduated from Baylor University in 2017 and joined the lab in June of 2018. I am an assistant to the Directors of the Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, within the Department of Molecular Biosciences. Among other things, I provide support for the center's directors with reporting and informational upkeep. Aside from being a member of CSSB, I enjoy swimming, traveling, watching movies, and going to concerts.









Cody McLeland


Recent Alumni


Sandeep Panda

"I am a graduate student in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, India. I was selected for the Indo-US Genome Engineering Technology Initiative (GETin) Internship, which enables PhD Scholars from India to gain exposure in the emerging domains of gene editing and synthetic biology. In the Ellington Lab, I worked on engineering and repurposing terpene binding transcriptional repressors as biosensor in Escherichia coli. I also worked on developing a synthetic RNA-based platform, which can facilitate metabolic shunting between pathways in Escherichia coli."



Armin Nourani

Armin was an undergraduate who worked with many lab members on the development of novel nucleic acid biomarker point-of-care diagnostics. He graduated in the Spring of 2016 and will be attending graduate school at Vanderbilt University to pursue a PhD in chemical biology. Armin had a strong love-hate relationship with LAMP but was an overall advocate for regular lamps.


Ella Watkins

Ella worked in the Ellington Lab for 2 years with Jimmy Gollihar. In her time here, she adapted the directed evolution methods of compartmentalized self replication and compartmentalized partnered replication to work with a eukaryotic system. She is now attending the California Institute of Technology for her PhD in Bioengineering.


Yu Sherry Jiang

As an analytical chemistry student working in a biochemistry lab (and occasionally as a TA in biology), I work with DNA a lot: DNA diagnostics, DNA circuits, DNA computers, DNA synthesis, and related point-of-care devices.


Yan Du

I graduated from Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CIAC, CAS), and joined the Ellington Lab in April 2013. My research interests relate to developing DNA circuitry and isothermal nucleic acid amplification technologies, as well as using various signal output methods to realize their bioanalytical applications. For example, I am developing “one-pot” electrochemical platforms that may realize point-of-care diagnostics in the future.


Yousef Okasheh

Yousef was an undergraduate researcher, Beckman Scholar, and hype man for the lab. Apart from research, Yousef is perhaps best known on the Internet through his involvement with multiple Austin-based startups.


Bijoy Desai

Bijoy is now working on "understanding the structural dynamics of translation elongation and its regulation using single molecule total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy" as a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University.

Peter Allen

Peter is a Chemist from University of Washington in Seattle. He has published papers in journals such as Analytical Chemistry, Electrophoresis, and Biochimica et Biophysica Acta: Molecular Basis of Disease. His research has been at the interface of chemistry and neurobiology he is currently working with robotics, Sequential Injection Analysis and aptamers.


Dilek Cam

Research Interests
Nanoparticle (gold, silver) synthesis and modification, development of rapid test (lateral flow strip) platforms based on antibody and nucleic acid for pathogen detection, nanobiosensors, Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS).


Alison Moss

Alison was a Biomedical Engineering undergraduate who worked on protein engineering.


Carolyn Hargrave



Bingling Li

Dr. Bingling Li graduated from Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry and joined the Ellington Lab in February 2010 as a postdoctoral research fellow. Her research interest covers “every aspect” related to DNA based molecular recognition, signal amplification, and signal output. Her dream of doing research is developing a commercialized point-of-care device or analytical device for easy and portable diagnosis.


Nick Marshall

Worked primarily on two disparate projects. One project involved utilizing immuno-therapy to cure cancer. The other project was focused on building electronic communication into microbes to build so called "Cyborgcells." That's right, curing a horrible disease on one hand, creating an apocalyptic scenario on the other. Such is the Ellington Lab…


Beth Marshall

Beth Marshall was a technician that worked on repertoire analysis and antibody engineering.


Shu Jun Zhen

Shu is an Associate Professor from Southwest University, China. She worked on two projects. One was about functional nucleic acid based biosensors. The other one was about super-resolution imaging of the interactions between molecules and plasmonic nanostructures.