Meet the team. Updated May 2016.

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

Cheulhee Jung

My research projects: 
1. Isothermal amplification (enzyme-based amplification) 
- Dumbbell concatemer amplification (DCA): Continuous self-folding and replication happens, generating very long dsDNA tandem repeats. 
- Evolutionary study for self-replicators using DCA: Good self-replicators will survive under limited resources. 
2. DNA walker on micro-particle (enzyme-free amplification) 
- Autonomous DNA walker with random direction, driven by catalytic hairpin assembly (CHA) circuit
- The stickness of DNA walker can be controlled.

Yan Du

I graduated from Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CIAC, CAS), and joined in Ellington lab in April 2013. My research interests relate to developing DNA circuitry, isothermal nucleic acid amplification technologies and 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.

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!

Jon McDaniel

Jon graduated with a PhD in biomedical engineering from Duke in 2013. He now investigates how single cell analysis can be used as a tool for rapid and high throughput antibody discovery and vaccine development, and in his free time tries to trick phage into readily incorporating new amino acids into their proteome.

Jared Ellefson

Jared Ellefson works on the development of improved emulsion methods for the selection of genes and pathways.

Xiaolong Sun

I received his MSc in 2012 from East China University of Science and Technology, China and completed his Ph.D in 2015 at the University of Bath, United kingdom. His research interests include organic synthesis to prepare small molecules, which can be utilized to understand and exploit biological systems, mainly in the fluorescent detection of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and carbohydrates, ie monosaccharides.

Oana Lungu

Postdoctoral Fellow. Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My research focuses on applying a protein structure-based approach to understanding antibody immune responses. Diversity in the sequences and structures of antibodies that constitute the human immune repertoire is critical for mounting an effective response against constantly evolving foreign viral antigens. I am currently studying antibody repertoires, such as those elicited against Filoviruses and Arenaviruses, as well as the antibodies that constitute the baseline naïve human antibody repertoire, which have not been exposed to any antigens. My goal is to characterize structural antibody repertoires and gain insights into their relationship to antibody sequence in B cell populations.

Sheng Cai


Zhanar Abil


Anna Simon


Research Assistants

Sanchita Bhadra

I engineer nucleic acid circuits and devices for diagnostic applications. My work is focused on developing methods for (i) non-enzymatic,enzymatic and isothermal nucleic acid amplification (ii) real-time sequence probing systems for isothermal amplification methodologies (iii) SNP distinction (iv) alternate platforms for amplicon detection and (v) point-of-care diagnostics. I also facilitate rapid diagnostic assay development for identification of metabolic and infectious diseases by computational target selection, primer design and establishment of standard operating procedures.

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.

Randall Hughes

Randall Hughes is the manager and Principal Investigator of the Applied Biosciences and Biosecurity laboratory at the University of Texas-Applied Research Laboratories. He is also the director of the gene synthesis and fabrication facilities at the Applied Research Laboratories. His research focuses on the development of novel tools and techniques for gene synthesis and translational synthetic biology as well as the development of novel biosensors for food safety, point of care diagnostics, and biosecurity.

Jiri Perutka

I am interested in a versatile genome and epigenome editing with group II introns (targetrons) and in the development of novel methods for identifying unique patterns of protein expression and neuroimaging biomarkers associated with specific diseases.

Arti Pothukuchy

Project 1: 
Tryptophanyl tRNA synthetase/tRNA pair is an attractive candidate for achieving the goal of unnatural amino acid incorporation because of its spacious binding pocket and its potential to accommodate large and bulky synthetic amino acids. We are currently developing the next generation of orthogonal tryptophanyl-tRNAs that are not only superior in their suppression ability but are also truly orthogonal in E.coli system. Rational design methodology is being used to create novel tRNA variants by making modifications on the acceptor arm as well as on the anticodon stem region of the parental tRNA sequences. 
Project 2: 
We are designing and developing SNAP-tag fusion antibodies against cancer biomarkers to develop optimized magnetic bead-based sandwich immuno-PCR reagents. We are currently optimizing a panel of oligo-conjugated or aptamer-conjugated antibodies and magnetic bead conjugates to develop a generalizable method for immuno-PCR reagent production.

Graduate Students

Andre Maranhao

Andre Maranhao works on the evolutionary engineering of tRNAs and tRNA synthetases for unnatural amino acid incorporation.

Drew Tack

Drew Tack works on addicting proteins to unnatural amino acids, and on the evolution of tRNA synthetases.

Yu Sherry Jiang

As an analytical chemistry student working in biochem lab, occasionally TA in biology, I work on DNA a lot, DNA diagnostic, DNA circuit, DNA computer, DNA synthesis, and related point of care device.

Jimmy Gollihar

Jimmy Gollihar is a graduate student who works on protein engineering and has experience with protein computational design.

John Milligan

John, more often known as Johnny in the wild and wonderful capital of Texas, enjoys lots of kinds of music, playing guitar, singing, lifting weights, unicorns, and sometimes molecular biology and evolution. A long-time friend of the nucleic acid side of our lab, he works on evolving polymerases to help improve their impressive and ever-developing diagnostic technologies. He is also exploring evolution on a genome-wide scale as a tool to create new phenotypes, and playing with magnets and bacteria that make them with his new friends in Berkeley.

Dan Garry

Dan Garry is a graduate student who works on the directed evolution of bacteriophage.

Bo Wang

Bo Wang is a graduate student who works on antibody engineering.

Byung Joon Lim

Byung Joon is a graduate student who is working jointly with Dr. Ellington and Dr. Sessler in the Department of Chemistry. He is interested in the synthesis of electrochemically active nucleic acids and applications to sensing and actuation.

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


Boya Wang

Personal website:
Boya received her B.S. in Applied Chemistry at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China. She is now a graduate student co-advised by Dr. Andy Ellington and Dr. David Soloveichik. Her research is mainly focused on engineering molecular systems, specifically DNA strand displacement systems, to create complicated biochemical circuits.

Undergraduate Students

Saloni Gyani


Amogh Krishnagiri


Barrett Morrow

Barrett is an alumnus of the FRI DIY Diagnostics stream and will be entering his second year with the Ellington Lab this fall. Aside from broad interests in bioengineering, he has a knack for 3D printing and is interested in the development of diagnostics for medical and commercial processes.

Paul Nguyen

I am a sophomore biochemistry major who joined the lab in 2015. Currently, I work with Ross on his crazy protein engineering ideas. I also fully overhauled the lab website.

Undergraduate Alumni

Alison Moss

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

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

Hi! I am Ella Watkins, an undergraduate at the University of Texas majoring in Biology with an emphasis in Cellular and Molecular Biology. In my spare time, I enjoy running and swimming. I aspire to complete a half marathon and be published in a scientific magazine.


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 Nanoparticles (Gold, Silver) synthesis&modification, development of rapid test (Lateral flow strip) platforms based on antibody and nucleic acid for pathogen detection, nanobiosensors, Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS)

Carolyn Hargrave


Bingling Li

Dr. Bingling Li graduated from Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, and joined in Ellington lab in Feb. 2010 as a post-doctoral 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 whatever analytical device for easy and portable diagnosis.

Nick Marshall

Worked primarily on two disparate projects. One project involves utilizing immuno-therapy to cure cancer. The other project is 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. I worked on two projects. One was about the functional nucleic acid based biosensors. The other one was the super-resolution imaging of the interactions between molecules and plasmonic nanostructures.