Meet the team. Updated August 2018.

Principal Investigator


Andy 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


Yolanda G. Garcia Huante

“As a post-doctoral fellow, I will be working on generation of improved Cpf1. The main aims of this project are to improve genome editing tools by rational design and selection. In particular, libraries of Cpf1 variants will be generated and then both screened for function via cell-based assays and high-throughput biophysical profiling, and selected using a novel directed evolution system called Compartmentalized Partnered Replication (CPR). Success in this project should further the CRISPR revolution, and will have wide applications in biomedicine, biotechnology, and synthetic biology. On the other hand, I like dancing, cats, and spend my time with my family and friends.”


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


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

“I received a BS in Microbiology, with Honors, at the University of Texas at Austin. I 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, I work on the development of novel biotechnologies for detecting RNA and DNA biomarkers."


Jose Cardona

“I received a B.S. in Bioengineering from University of California Merced is currently focusing on developing several novel antibodies for a variety of purposes. Ranging from using them to bind and detect certain cells for detection purposes, to causing catalytic reactions or using them to create targets for immune cells. In addition he has recently started work on using aptamers to sense a variety of compounds. When I’m not in the lab I tend to either be at the gym, hiking or playing D&D. If I’m not working on my own project of course.”


Isaac Donnell

“I have been a member of the Ellington Lab since August 2018, and have been working on the evolution of ribozymes for in vivo function and expansion of the genetic code. When not pipetting, I like to bake sourdough bread, roast coffee and find the best breakfast tacos in Austin.”


Dallas Lee

“I am a M.S. Biotechnologist with a broad, well-developed, and adaptable skillset in organic chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and veterinary medicine. I help to manage the Ellington lab, and its many research facets.”


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!”


Barrett Morrow

“I began working for the Ellington Lab in 2016. Since then I’ve graduated from UT Austin with a B.S. in Biology. While I’m broadly interested in bioengineering, I focus on 3D printing and the development of diagnostics for medical and commercial processes.”

Jonny Riggs

Jonny Rigs

I graduated in 2013 with a MS in Biology from Texas State University. After working as a microbiologist for the Department of State Health Services for two years, I began working toward my PhD in molecular biology at Oklahoma State University. In mid-2018, I had the chance to move back to Austin to accelerate my growth as scientist at University of Texas.

Chad Wang

Chad Wang

I am applying in vivo selections for the production, sensing, and reporting of chemicals in bacteria. In eukaryotes, I am developing biosensors based on ion channels. I am focusing on pursuing graduate studies to develop molecular tools for genomics, chemical production, and therapeutics. In my free time, I enjoy taking my pupper to the park, bicycling, and trying new foods.

Graduate Students 


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"


Austin Cole

“I graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities with degrees in Biology and Statistics. I focus on two projects. The first uses molecular techniques to make viruses deliver vaccines to plants. A virus can be modified to carry a beneficial gene—as the virus infects the host it also expresses the helpful transgene. The second project uses machine learning to guide protein stabilization. Specific residues in a given protein disproportionately contribute to misfolding or destabilization. Our framework identifies these residues based on their chemical environment and suggests an alternate residue to help stability.”


Simon Doelsnitz

"I finished my B.S. in Pharmacology from Stony Brook University in 2016 and joined the Ellington lab in 2017. My research involves applying directed evolution and protein engineering methods for developing biosensors and improving biosynthetic pathways. Besides science, I enjoy biking, playing piano, meditation, cooking, soccer, and dank memes."


Elizabeth Gardner

“I am a graduate research assistant working in synthetic neurobiology. I use yeast to express human receptors for protein engineering and for the development of drug screening platforms.”

Shaunak Kar

Shaunak Kar

I am a graduate student in the Cellular and Molecular Biology program. My research involves construction of modular and tunable gene expression systems capable of functioning across kingdoms of life.


Raghav Shroff

“I am a current graduate student in the Cell and Molecular Biology program having previously completed my undergraduate degree at Rice University. My research involves using artificial intelligence to better inform protein design.”

Stella Wang

“I am a graduate student in the Cell and Molecular Biology program. I completed my B.S. in bioengineering at Caltech in 2016 and joined the lab in 2017. I am interested in improving the capabilities of DNA rational design in cellular, material, and information processing applications. Currently, I am developing detailed nearest neighbor models for nucleic acid variants using high-throughput means. I am also working on improving strand displacement mechanisms in cellular contexts.”

Undergraduate Students


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



Jose Cardona 

Cody McLeland

Recent Alumni

Jared Ellefson

Erhu Xiong

Sandeep Panda


Armin Nourani

Ella Watkins

Yu Sherry Jiang

Yan Du

Yousef Okasheh

Bijoy Desai

Peter Allen

Dilek Cam

Alison Moss

Carolyn Hargrave

Bingling Li

Nick Marshall

Beth Marshall

Shu Jun Zhen