Lab Members

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

    Administrative Staff

    Lisa Carlin

    Lab Administrator

        Undergraduate Students

        Doctoral Researchers

        Dr. Martin Panigaj

        Visiting Scientist from P. J. Safarik University Institute of Biology and Ecology

        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

              Undergraduate Students

                                       

              Dr. Brittany Johnson

              Research Assistant Professor

              My name is Brittany Johnson, and I am originally from Marion, Va. In 2008, I earned my B.S. in Biology with Honors from the College of William and Mary. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 with a Ph.D. from the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology. My dissertation work investigated mechanisms used by the bacterial pathogen, Neisseria gonorrhoeae to evade neutrophil clearance. I have continued my career as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina Charlotte working with Dr. Ian Marriott and Dr. Kirill Afonin. Currently, I am investigating glial cell immune receptors required for identification and stimulation of an immune response to bacterial pathogens and therapeutic nucleic acids.  

                  Undergraduate Students

                  Graduate Students

                  Morgan Chandler 

                  Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student 

                  My name is Morgan Chandler and I'm a local product from Charlotte, NC. I earned my B.S. in Biology with Honors from UNC Charlotte in 2017. 

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                    Undergraduate Students

                     

                    Yelixza I. Avila 

                    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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                      Undergraduate Students

                              

                      Alex Lewis Rolband

                      Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student 

                      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.

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                        Undergraduate Students

                                

                        Damian Beasock

                        Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Student 

                        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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                          Undergraduate Students

                          Jessica McMillan

                          Biology Masters Student

                          ​Hello! I am from Creedmoor, NC. In 2018, I graduated from UNC Charlotte with a B.S. in Psychology and minors in Biology and Chemistry. Before attending medical school, I'll be enhancing my knowledge on the inter-workings of human physiology and optimal drug delivery by studying RNA nanotechnology. My goal is to one day use nanodesign to diagnose patients experiencing chemical and psychological deviances and alleviate the symptoms with minimal drug side effects.

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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

                              Hello! My name is Leyla and I have my B.S. in Biology with a minor in political science. Originally from Germany, I have lived most of my life in Raleigh, NC. I began my undergraduate experience here at UNCC in 2017. I am currently researching nucleic acid nanotechnology involving silver nanoclusters. 

                                  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.

                                      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.

                                          Undergraduate Students

                                          Undergraduate Researchers

                                          Melina Richardson 

                                          Undergraduate Biology Major

                                          My name is Melina Richardson. I was born in Kansas City, Missouri and moved to Charlotte during the summer of  in 2015. After graduating South Mecklenburg High School, I began pursuing a B.S. in Biology with minors in statistics and bioinformatics. After graduation, I hope to enter a PhD program in Microbiology and Virology.

                                              Undergraduate Students

                                                        

                                              Doaha Awad

                                              Undergraduate Biology Major

                                              My name is Doaha Awad. I am a junior majoring in Biology (B.S.) and minoring in Chemistry and Psychology and I aspire to attend medical school in the future. I am originally from the Bronx, NY, but moved to Charlotte, NC, a couple of years ago. I joined Dr. Afonin’s lab because I was interested in research, specifically in the field of Biochemistry, but also because his work with RNA nanotechnology was very fascinating and I wanted to learn more. Through my experience in Dr. Afonin’s lab, I have developed more of an interest and appreciation in research and am excited to continue research in the lab. 

                                                  Undergraduate Students

                                                     

                                                  Jay Shah 

                                                  Undergraduate Health Systems Management Major

                                                  My name is Jay Shah. I am currently a senior at UNC Charlotte. Originally, I am from Fayetteville, NC. I am pursuing a major in health systems management, but my focus is pre-med. I joined Dr. Afonin’s lab in hopes of gaining more experience with scientific research. By working in this lab, I hope to gain more knowledge on nanotechnology. My goal is to one day do clinical research with the purpose of improving the quality of other’s lives. 

                                                      Undergraduate Students

                                                                  

                                                      Lane Tolley 

                                                      Undergraduate Chemistry Major

                                                      Lane is a current Junior at UNC Charlotte majoring in Chemistry with a Concentration in Biochemistry and a minor in Biology. Lane is also a pre-medical student and aspires to attend Wake Forest School of Medicine. Lane is also an avid guitarist, cook, and connoisseur of fine buffalo wings.