Tufts University

Tufts iGEM

Tufts iGEM seeks to expand undergraduate science education and allow students to take part in all aspects of the research process, from drafting proposals, to securing funding, and finally carrying out the research in lab. These projects expose students not only to the technical aspects of synthetic biology but also to the social, legal, and ethical implications generated by their work. The team is composed of passionate individuals from all fields of study, who are driven to investigate and address pertinent issues in medicine, health, technology, research, and bioethics. In addition to carrying out undergraduate, self-directed research, the Tufts iGEM team teaches and mentors underclassmen, develops relationships with professors, and generally works to promote the involvement of undergraduates in biological research.

Peter Cavanagh

Peter Cavanagh is a junior at Tufts University majoring in Biochemistry and Engineering Science. He is interested in pursuing interdisciplinary research efforts to solve pertinent problems in biology, chemistry, medicine, and public health, and translate his research from the lab bench to the world. He has worked as an educator at the high school and college levels, working to integrate interdisciplinary and inquiry-based education in stem fields . He does bio-analytical research in the Walt Lab and has worked since his freshman year on developing a platform for massively parallel single-cell genomic analysis. Peter also enjoys backpacking and volunteering as a WEMT in his spare time.

Brenda French

Brenda French is a senior majoring in biology, psychology, biotechnology, and biomedical engineering science. Having worked in various labs concerned with topics ranging from cocaine uptake in chronically stressed rodents to DNA repair in Drosophila melanogaster, her primary interest is taking a widely interdisciplinary approach to synthetic research and broadening the limits for what can be asked and answered within this field. Outside of research, Brenda is involved with patient care at a local clinic, marathon training, and musical pursuits with piano.

Christopher Ghadban

Christopher Ghadban graduated from Tufts University in May 2014 in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. He has long been interested in the intersection of science and entrepreneurship, and has always believed in self-driven education. As a founding director of the Tufts Synthetic Biology, Mr. Ghadban knows the organization to be an excellent opportunity to expand one’s knowledge and provide experience in more self-directed research than is otherwise available to undergraduate students.

Michaela Gold

Michaela Gold is a current sophomore at Tufts University majoring in Biology and Biotechnology. She is currently studying DNA fragility in S. Pombe yeast with the Freudenreich lab. Michaela has a strong passion for molecular biology and microbiology, which she hopes to eventually use to enter the biotechnology field and research new drugs. Besides Tufts iGEM, Michaela is an avid rock climber and a member of the Tufts Climbing Team.

Connor McBrine

Connor McBrine is a junior pursuing majors in Biology and Biotechnology. Several of his courses in genetics and molecular biology revealed the immense potential of synthetic biology in healthcare and industry. In addition to iGEM, Connor works to better understand DNA repair pathways in Drosophila with CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. He hopes to eventually use this technology to develop therapies and even cures for genetic disorders. Various positions teaching students about biology and previous work as an EMT have also instilled Connor with a strong interest in scientific education and medicine, both of which he hopes to one day incorporate into a career in biology. In his free time, Connor enjoys reading about military history and discovering new music at local concerts.

Denali Rao

Denali Rao is a junior studying Computer Science and Cognitive Science. She has always been interested in biological research, interning in a Molecular Biology lab for two years before turning her interests to computer science. Now, as a junior, she is pursuing research that integrates computer science and biology.

Jesse Starger

Jesse Starger is a junior at Tufts University majoring in Chemical and Biological Engineering. Jesse has research experience in the polymer field as he continues to work in the Yi lab with overarching interests in sustainable and environmental engineering. Outside of class, Jesse is a member of the Tufts University Men’s Rugby Football Club in addition to being the Eco-Rep for his dorm. While with the Tufts iGEM Team, Jesse hopes to increase his exposure to other academic fields through more independent forms of study than what a traditional undergraduate education may typically allow.

Petar Todorov

Petar Todorov majored in chemistry with an established tradition in research. During the last five years he has worked on projects spanning biophysics, molecular biology, and biomedical engineering. He currently works on elucidating restriction enzyme mechanisms in the Walt group at Tufts. Mr. Todorov established Tufts iGEM in early 2013. Since then he has worked to help the group secure funding, laboratory space, and faculty support in addition to guiding literature searches and drafting proposals outlining potential routes of research. Beyond the bench, he is interested in the intersection science, technology, society, and ethics. Mr. Todorov was one of the students involved in organizing the Institute of Global Leadership’s 2013 professional workshop focused on Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing. Outside the lab Petar enjoys travel, photography, and reading in Bulgarian, English, and Latin. Petar has served as an advisor to the team since graduating in May.

Michael Zalesne

Michael is a junior from Columbia, SC, majoring in Biopsychology. He first got involved with Tufts iGEM shortly after its founding in February 2013. As director, he has helped organize a conference on the Future of Phage Therapy and Synthetic Biology and worked with faculty and administrators to secure funding and housing for our team. Michael has worked in several labs at different universities, and he is also involved in Tufts Sustainability Collective and Active Minds on campus. He enjoys being outdoors, going to the gym, and rock climbing.

Dr. Nikhil Nair - Advisor

Tufts University, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Dr. Nikhil Nair is a professor in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department of the Engineering School of Tufts University. His research focuses on altering various aspects of microbial physiology with the aim of not only engineering them for applications, but also to understand why various features of life evolved the way they did. He believes that, as an engineer, building a synthetic system is one of the most powerful methods to understand the intricacies of that system. Dr. Nair is the advisor of the Tufts Synthetic Biology team.