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Lab Members

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Undergraduate Students

                         

Kirill Afonin

Principal Investigator

I was born in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. but grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation. I graduated from Saint Petersburg State University with an M.S. in Chemistry, followed by a Ph.D. in Photochemistry earned from Bowling Green State University, Ohio.  In addition to my doctoral degree, received in 2008, I also obtained a Graduate Certificate in Bioinformatics, Proteomics/Genomics from a joint program between Bowling Green State University, Medical University of Ohio, and University of Toledo, Ohio.  In the following three years, I completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Chemistry and Biochemistry in Luc Jaeger’s lab at the University of California Santa Barbara.  In 2011, I was invited as a Research Fellow to join the group of Bruce Shapiro at the National Cancer Institute, NIH where I established and managed an experimental branch within the Computational RNA Structure Group. I started my tenure-track appointment as an Assistant Professor at UNC Charlotte in 2015 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2019 and to Professor in 2021.

 

Starting with my doctoral research, under the supervision of Neocles Leontis, I focused my efforts on studying RNA biology and nanotechnology with potential diagnostic and therapeutic applications to biomedicine. My interdisciplinary research experience includes extensive use of both computational and experimental techniques for modeling, prediction, engineering, and characterization in vitro and in vivo of natural and artificial nucleic acid-based structures.

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Undergraduate Students

Doctoral Researchers

Dr. Martin Panigaj

Research Assistant Professor

Postdoctoral ORISE Fellow | U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Ph.D., Molecular and Cellular Biology | Charles University (Prague, Czech Republic)

M.S., Molecular Biology and Genetics | P.J. Safarik University (Kosice, Slovak Republic)

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Undergraduate Students

                                          

Dr. Caryn D. Striplin

Lecturer and Lab Coordinator 

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Molecular Pharmacology | UNC Chapel Hill

Ph.D., Neuroscience | Washington State University

B.S., Biology and Chemical Science | California State University, Chico

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    Undergraduate Students

    Laboratory Technician

    Anh Ha

    Research Technician

    My name is Anh Ha, and I am from Vietnam. I came to the US in 2010 and have lived in Charlotte since then. I earned my B.S. in Biology with Cell Biology/ Physiology concentration at UNC Charlotte in 2018, followed by an M.S. in Biology together with Graduate Certificate in Bioinformatics Applications in 2020. 

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      Undergraduate Students

      Graduate Students

      Oleg Shevchenko

      Chemistry Masters Student

      My name is Oleg Shevchenko. I was born in Artemovsk in the former USSR, but now it is Bakhmut in Ukraine. My family moved to the US and has lived in the Charlotte area since 2001, a place I can call home. I earned a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Chemistry with a Minor in Mathematics, and now I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Chemistry at UNC Charlotte while studying RNA nanotechnology. I also have an interest in genetic genealogy.

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      Oleg Shevchenko

      Undergraduate Students

       

      Yelixza I. Avila 

      Research Assistant (Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Candidate and NIH-F31 recipient) 

      Hello, my name is Yelixza. I am from the El Paso, TX area and graduated from Sul Ross State University where I double majored in Biology and Chemistry. Currently, I am a Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Candidate investigating the use of different delivery vehicles for nucleic acid nanotechnologies and characterizing the resulting immunological responses. 

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      Undergraduate Students

         

      Yasmine Radwan

      Research Assistant (Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Candidate) 

      I am Yasmine Radwan. I’m from Cairo, Egypt where I received my B.S. in Biomedical Sciences, with a concentration in Drug Design and Development, and a minor in Nanomedicine, from Zewail City for Science and Technology. I am currently a Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student at UNC Charlotte, studying nucleic acid nanotechnology and drug delivery.

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      Undergraduate Students

                                                

      Leyla Danai-noldner

      Research Assistant (Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student) 

      My name is Leyla and I am currently a first-year PhD student in the Afonin lab researching RNA nanotechnology and nucleic acid nanoparticles. I received my B.S. at UNCC in biology, along with a minor in political science. My current research involves the investigations of DNA-templated silver nanoclusters and the selective activation of RIG-I, an important cytosolic immune receptor.

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      Undergraduate Students

                               

      Sabina Fardous

      Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student

      Hello, I am Sabina Fardous. I earned a BS and a Masters degree major in Pharmaceutical Science from Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. Then I was positioned as a quality control (QC) officer in a pharmaceutical company for around three years before coming to the USA. Now, I have started my Ph.D. in Dr. Afonin's lab here at UNC Charlotte.

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        Undergraduate Students

        Elizabeth Skelly

        Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student

        Hello! My name is Elizabeth Skelly. I earned a BS in Nanoscale Chemistry with a minor in Calculus-based Math from Northwest Missouri State University. While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I gained experience in R&D and QA at Vi-Jon, Inc. in St. Louis, MO, and I spent a summer conducting research at the University of South Dakota. I am now a Ph.D. student in the Nanoscale Science Program. 

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        Undergraduate Students

                    

        Laura Rebolledo

        Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student

        Hi! My name is Laura Rebolledo. I received my B.S. in Biology with a minor in Biotechnology from UNC Charlotte and am now pursuing a Ph.D. in Nanoscale Science with the Afonin Lab. I joined Dr. Afonin’s lab because of my growing interest in research and found his work on RNA nanoparticles fascinating. I am thrilled to learn more about RNA nanotechnology and its therapeutic applications to biomedicine, and I am thankful to be part of such an amazing team.   

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          Undergraduate Students

                      

          Liz Brennan

          Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student

          Hello! My name is Liz Brennan. I am originally from Charlotte, and I received my B.S. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Studio Art from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. During my time as a student and after graduating, I participated in bioinformatic research at Atrium Health and assisted in the regulation of clinical trials at Monroe Biomedical Research. As a first year student in the Nanoscale Science program, I am eager to learn more about the potential that nucleic acids have in the development of targeted therapies.  

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            Undergraduate Students

                                                      

            Phong Nguyen

            Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student 

            Good day, my name is Phong Nguyen and I am originally from Vietnam. I have been in the US for almost a decade. I got a B.S. degree with a major in Biochemistry and a minor in Pharmacology from the University of Minnesota Twin City. I also got a M.S. degree in Molecular Biology from the University of South Florida. I am interested in how nucleic acid nanoparticles can be used in drug delivery/immunology systems and am really excited to start my Ph.D. journey in the Afonin lab.

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            Undergraduate Students

                        

            Mia Collins 

            Nanoscale science post-bac student

            Hi! My name is Mia Collins and I am a post-baccalaureate graduate student at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. I graduated from Elon University in 2022 with a B.A in Biology and I am planning to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in Endocrinology/Toxicology. I also work at Central Piedmont Community College, in the Anatomy & Physiology department as a lab assistant. My current research involves the synthesis and characterization of silver nanoclusters. 

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              Undergraduate Students

              Undergraduate Researchers

              Eilidh Anderson

              B.S. Chemistry (Biochemistry Concentration) and minor in Spanish

              Hello! My name is Eilidh Anderson. I was born in Edinburgh, UK, and moved to Charlotte with my family in 2009. I am a Chemistry major (Biochemistry concentration) and a Spanish minor here at UNC Charlotte. I joined Dr. Afonin's lab because of my interest in the biology-chemistry-medicine interface and to gain some research experience to help me decide whether to pursue more research after graduation. 

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                Undergraduate Students

                            

                Alora Dunnavant

                B.S. Chemistry (conc. Biochemistry)

                Hello! My name is Alora Dunnavant, and I recently graduated from UNC Charlotte with a B.S. in Chemistry (conc. Biochemistry) and a minor in Bioinformatics and Genomics. Upon graduation, I became fully employed working in R&D in the coatings industry and also started volunteering in the lab to continue my undergraduate research project investigating the antibacterial properties of silver nanoclusters. While I am in the midst of applying for my Ph.D., regularly versing myself with novel biochemistry/nanotechnology research is a practice I greatly enjoy in Dr. Afonin's lab.

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                  Undergraduate Students

                              

                  Jose Reyna Aguilar

                  Undergraduate Biology Major

                  Hello! My name is Jose Reyna, I am originally from Guatemala. My family and I moved to the US
                  about 12 years ago. As an undergraduate, I am pursuing a B.S. in Biology with a minor in
                  Chemistry here at UNC Charlotte. I never imagined being in the position that I am in today and
                  having the privilege to learn from the great leaders/minds that we have here in Dr. Afonin’s
                  lab. My dream has always been to become a physician, and in the process of working towards
                  that goal, I got the opportunity to submerse myself in what it is to apply biochemistry in the lab
                  setting. This opportunity has been so enriching so far and has shown me a different
                  perspective on medicine and the work and sacrifices that are needed to serve our
                  community in the best way possible.

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