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

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)

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    Dr. Martin Panigaj

    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

      Graduate 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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      • 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 

      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

      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.

      • LinkedIn
      • ResearchGate
      • Google Scholar
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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.

      • LinkedIn
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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.

        Yasmine Radwan

        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

                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. 

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                  Undergraduate Students

                     

                  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

                                

                    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.

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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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