Lab Members

Afonin Lab 2022

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.

  • ResearchGate
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Undergraduate Students

Administrative Support Specialist

Lisa Carlin

Lab Administrator

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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)

    • ResearchGate
    • Google Scholar
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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

        Damian Beasock

        Research Assistant (Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Candidate) 

        I’m Damian Beasock from Syracuse, New York. At Syracuse University I earned a BS in Bio-Med Physics. I was a part of the Forstner biophysics research group studying active matter. I’m currently working on my PhD in Nanoscale Science here at UNC Charlotte.

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        • ResearchGate
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        Undergraduate 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. Student) 

        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. Student investigating the delivery of nucleic acid nanotechnologies.

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        • Google Scholar
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        Undergraduate Students

                

        Alex Lewis Rolband

        Research Assistant (Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Candidate) 

        I am Lewis Rolband, though I go by Alex in most company. I took the scenic route to my B.S. Chemistry with Biochemistry from UNC-Charlotte. While working towards my undergraduate degree, I served in the NC Army National Guard (NCARNG) as an artillery observer and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle commander. After eight years in the NCARNG, I decided to end my service and pursue a PhD at UNC-Charlotte in order to further my scientific career.

        • LinkedIn
        • ResearchGate
        • Google Scholar
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        Undergraduate Students

           

        Yasmine Radwan

        Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student

        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

          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

              Sandra Arroyo-Becker

              Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student

              Hey there! My name is Sandra Arroyo-Becker and I grew up in Miami, FL. I initially began my undergraduate career at the University of South Carolina and transferred to UNC Charlotte in order to pursue a B.S. in Biology as well as a B.A. in Chemistry and French. While working on my undergraduate degrees, I had the opportunity to conduct research at institutions both abroad (Institut Pasteur, Paris, France) and local (UNC Charlotte, Charlotte, NC). Throughout my experiences, I have ameliorated my capabilities as a researcher and have acquired newfound interests (i.e. RNA nanotechnology). I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Nanoscale Science Program.

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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

                  Undergraduate Researchers

                  Alora Dunnavant 

                  Undergraduate Chemistry Major

                  My name is Alora Dunnavant. I am originally from Virginia but chose to attend UNC Charlotte because of the multitude of research opportunities and innovative atmosphere in the city of Charlotte. I am majoring in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry and a minor in Bioinformatics in hopes of conducting oncology/nanomedicine research. I joined Dr.Afonin’s lab because of the connection that it offers between my future career path and my academic focus. There are so many different types of research taking place here and I look forward to being able to take part in something so fascinating.

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                    Undergraduate Students

                                

                    Nicole Ekezue

                    Undergraduate Biology Major

                    Hi. My name is Nicole Ekezue. I am from Cary, NC, but I was born in Charlotte, NC. I am majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Public Health and aspire to obtain an MD someday. I joined Dr. Afonin Lab because of the interdisciplinary research in Chemistry and Biology his lab conducts and my interest in the development and implementation of therapeutic RNA nanotechnology that the lab does. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of RNA nanotechnology and its future uses in a therapeutic setting.

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                      Undergraduate Students

                                  

                      Cheyenne Vasquez

                      Undergraduate Biology Major

                      I am originally from Florida and landed here after being stationed here in North Carolina. I am currently wrapping up the last year of my degree in my Biology program and hope to attend graduate or medical school, of which I am incredibly interested in helping develop and learn about therapeutics specifically geared toward those with autoimmune diseases. 

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                        Undergraduate Students

                                    

                        Jalen London 

                        Undergraduate Nursing Major

                        My name is Jalen London. I am from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I am majoring in Nursing and minoring in Spanish in the hopes of becoming a nurse practitioner. Also, I am a Martin Scholar and University Honors Program student. I joined Dr. Afonin's lab to be able to participate in research that soon will have profound diagnostic and therapeutic applications to biomedicine. 

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                          Undergraduate Students

                                      

                          Katie Hale

                          Undergraduate Biology Major

                          Hello! My name is Katie Hale and I am currently working towards my BS in biology at UNCC. After graduation, I hope to attend graduate school to obtain a Ph.D. in a biochemistry-related field. I recently joined the Afonin lab as an undergraduate researcher because I am interested in pursuing a career in research and found the research regarding RNA nanoparticles and silver nanoclusters extremely interesting. I look forward to learning and growing with all the amazing individuals in the Afonin Lab and biology/chemistry departments here at UNC Charlotte! 

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                            Undergraduate Students

                                        

                            Celine Ortiz

                            Undergraduate Biology Major

                            Hi my name is Celine Ortiz. I was born in NY and my family relocated to Charlotte, N.C. when I was six years old. I began my undergraduate journey at Hartwick University on a swimming scholarship. During the pandemic, I transferred to UNC Charlotte to pursue my B.S. degree in Biology (Pre-Med) with a minor in Chemistry. I joined Dr. Afonin's lab to extend my knowledge in the medical research field and the manipulation or design of matter.

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                              Undergraduate Students

                                          

                              Laura Rebolledo

                              Undergraduate Biology Major

                              Hi! My name is Laura Rebolledo. I am originally from Colombia and my family came to the U.S. about 11 years ago. I am a Biology major and will be pursuing a master's degree after my undergraduate studies before continuing to medical school. 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

                                Junior Scholar

                                Melanie Andrade-Muñoz

                                Research Assistant

                                Hi, my name is Melanie Andrade-Muñoz, and I’m a dual-enrollment high school senior at CPCC. I’m currently the Valedictorian of my class and pursuing an Associate’s degree in Biological Sciences. I began working with Dr. Afonin’s Lab through ACS Project SEED. I plan to get a B.S in Neuroscience and continue to Medical School.

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