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Pérez-Mercader Group


Principal Investigator

Dr. Pérez-Mercader
Dr. Juan Pérez-Mercader

Juan Pérez-Mercader () earned his Ph.D. from the City College of New York. He is an Elected Member of the International Academy of Astronautics and of the European Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1998 in Association with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, he founded Spain's Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) of which he was its first Director. He is the architect of Spain's current participation with infrastructure and instrumentation on board Mars Science Laboratory that arrived on Mars in August 2012. He is Profesor de Investigación in Spain's National Research Council (CSIC) and an External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. In 2010, he joined Harvard as a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the university's Origins of Life Initiative, where he leads a project on the "Top-down Synthesis of an Ex-novo Chemical Artificial Living System".

Research Interests: Physics of Self-organizing Behavior, Information in Non-equilibrium Physico-chemical Systems, Chemical Computation, Origins of Life, Theoretical Biology and Life Detection.

Areas of Expertise: Quantum Field Theory, Dynamical Renormalization Group, Decoupling and Scaling Phenomena in Multiscale Systems, Information and Complexity in Chemical and Biological Systems, Micro-array Engineering, Communication Engineering, Astrobiology and Planetary Exploration


Repsol Project Team Research Associate

Dr.  Dueñas
Dr. Marta Dueñas

Marta Dueñas earned her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering in 2000 from the University of Valladolid (Spain). In 2004 she earned her Dr.Ing. (PhD) in Engineering Cybernetics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim, Norway) in collaboration with Telemark University College, under the supervision of Prof. Bernt Lie. Thesis: "Population Balance Modelling and Passivity-Based Control of Particulate Processes, applied to the Silgrain® process". Marta has worked since then in industrial R&D groups in the Oil & Gas & Petrochemical sector, on various projects in the topics of advanced mathematical modelling, optimization and process control. Marta has collaborated with Prof. Pérez-Mercader's group since the Summer of 2011.

Research Associates

Dr. Guo
Dr. Jinshan Guo

Jinshan Guo () earned his PhD degree in Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Science. He came to USA for postdoctoral research, first in UT Arlington, then moved to The Pennsylvania State University (PSU). Afterwards, he left PSU as a Research Associate and went into medical device industry and worked for one year before joining into Pérez-Mercader group in Sep. 2017. Here, he is working on polymerization-induced self assembly (PISA), self-replication of vesicles and pH oscillation for investigating the origin of life.

Research Interests: Polymer-induced self assembly, Polymersomes, Phoenix, pH oscillation, Origin of Life.

Dr. Katla
Dr. Sai Krishna Katla

Sai Krishna Katla () earned his Ph.D. in Materials Science from Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), India in 2011. After graduating, he pursued postdoctoral research in Nanofabrication and Nanomaterials group at the Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices (CAMD), Louisiana State University (LSU). Later, he worked as a Research Scientist from 2014 to 2015 in the 3D-Nanostructuring group at Institute of Physics & Institute of Micro- and Nanotechnologies (IMN), Technische Universität Ilmenau, Germany. Further, from 2015 to 2018 he worked as a Research Scientist - Associate and later as a Lecturer at The University of Texas at El Paso. Since Jan 2018, he is working on chemical computing and other problems associated with the creation of chemical artificial life in Pérez-Mercader group.

Research Interests: Lab-on-a-chip systems, Nanomaterials, Self-assembly processes, Chemical computing, Origins of Life.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Dr. Ahmed
Dr. Suzanne Ahmed

Suzanne Ahmed () received her B.S. from the University of California, Riverside, her M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley and her Ph.D. at Penn State University. Her research interests include the study and design of biologically inspired autonomous self-propelled nano- and microscale motors. She is currently a member of the Juan Pérez-Mercader group.

Research Interests: Self-propelled materials, Stimuli-Responsive Polymers, Self-Assembly, Nanomaterials, Polymersomes, Origin of Life.

Dr. Cheng
Dr. Gong Cheng

Gong Cheng () earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Science. After graduation, he worked as a postdoctoral scholar at the Pennsylvania State University. He moved to Harvard in Dec. 2017. Currently, his research topic in EPS at Harvard is to explore the origin of life from the chemical and material perspective. More specifically, construction of an artificial cell or cell-like compartment to explain the formation of protocells and decode the origin of life.

Research interests: Design of innovative materials and technology for application in biomedicine and synthetic biology.

Dr. Hou
Dr. Liman Hou

Liman Hou () obtained her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry at Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences in January 2018. Her research focused on topological structures and functions of polymer brushes. She joined Prof. Pérez-Mercader's group in March 2018 as a postdoctoral fellow.

Research Interests: Polymerization-Induced Self-Assembly, Giant Polymeric Vesicles, Oscillating Chemical Reaction, Origins of Life.

Dr. Hu
Dr. Yuandu Hu

Yuandu Hu () studied in Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan China and earned his PhD in June 2013, majoring in Polymer Chemistry and Physics. He focused mainly on the fabrication of functional soft materials (e.g. shape controllable microgels and stimulus-responsive photonic crystal microparticles) by combining microfluidic techniques and self-assembly of colloidal particles together. Prior to joining the Pérez-Mercader group in September 2014, he spent one year in the University of Notre Dame in Indiana as a postdoctoral research associate. His work at Notre Dame dealt mainly with the fabrication of Janus microgel particles and self-propelling materials to mimic mircoorganisms' motion behavior.

Research Interests: Origin of Life, Microfluidic Technology, Hydrogel Based Soft Materials, Self-assembly of Colloid Particles, Interface Phenomenon, Chemomehanical System, Unilamellar Vesicles, and Self-Oscillation System Driven by B-Z Reaction.

Dr. Lin
Dr. Chenyu Lin

Chenyu Lin () earned his Bachelor's degree in medicinal and applied chemistry from Kaohsiung Medical University and his Master's degree in analytical chemistry from National Kaohsiung Normal University in Taiwan. He received his PhD in the field of supramolecular chemistry at Clarkson University, NY, where he primarily investigated self-assembled pi-pi interactions and their applications. He also investigated material science at Xerox Corporation as a visiting scientist. He joined Professor Pérez-Mercader's group in February 2017, where he is working on PISA, vesicles and their applications.

Research Interests: Self-Assembly Molecular Interactions and their applications, block copolymers, Origin of Life

Dr. Poros-Tarcali
Dr. Eszter Poros-Tarcali

Eszter Poros-Tarcali () earned her MSc degree in Pharmacy in 2011 from Semmelweis University in Hungary. She obtained her PhD in Chemistry under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Krisztina Kurin-Csorgei and Prof. Miklos Orban from Eötvös University, Hungary. Her Ph.D. thesis, "Design and study of novel oscillatory chemical systems", was defended in 2015. Prior to joining Prof. Pérez-Mercader's group in November 2017 she worked as a postdoc research fellow at Eötvös University.

Research Interest: Design of new oscillatory chemical reactions, mechanism of oscillatory chemical reactions, applications of chemical oscillators. Origin of life.

Dr. Yengi
Dr. Desmond Yengi

Desmond Yengi () completed a Ph. D. in Physical Chemistry with an emphasis on Nonlinear Chemical Dynamics at West Virginia University in December 2017 under the guidance of Dr. Kenneth Showalter. His dissertation topic is entitled: "Synchronization of Coupled Chemical Oscillators and Collective Behavior in Self-propelled (Janus) Particles." In January 2018, after his Ph. D., he joined Perez-Mercader group in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. His current research involves the investigation of the functional behavior of oscillatory chemistry in spatially confined environments. The study of encapsulated active chemistry in vesicles has a potential of providing a paradigmatic model to explore the origin of early life.


Dr. Albertsen
Dr. Anders N. Albertsen

Anders N. Albertsen studied Chemistry at the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Pharmacy, University of Southern Denmark. He obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the Center for Fundamental Living Technology (FLinT) under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Pierre-Alain Monnard. The Ph.D. thesis, "Study of Replication Processes in Minimal Self-Replicating Systems", was defended in December 2013. Anders joined the Pérez-Mercader group in February 2014.

Research Interests: Self-Assembly, Vesicles, Micelles, Reverse Micelles, Nanoreactors, Reactivity of Membranes, Membrane Coupled Reactions, Encapsulated Reactions, Compartmentalization of Living Systems, the Origin of Life, and Synthetic Biology.

Dr. Bastakoti
Dr. Bishnu Bastakoti

Bishnu Bastakoti () has a Master of Science in Physical Chemistry from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and received his PhD degree from Saga University, Japan under a MEXT scholarship. He worked as a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow in National Institute for Materials Science, Japan. Prior to joining Prof. Juan Pérez-Mercader's group (May 2016), he spent one year in the University of Sydney, Australia as a Research Associate. Here, he is working on self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules to fabricate intelligent vesicles for investigating the origin of life.

Research Interests: Synthesis of Porous Nanomaterials, Block copolymers, Self-assembly, Micelles, Polymersomes, Origin of life.

Dr. Gagnon
Dr. Jean-Sebastien Gagnon

J-S Gagnon received his Ph.D. in theoretical high energy physics from McGill University in 2007, where he worked on computing transport coefficients in hot gauge field theories under the supervision of S. Jeon. After his Ph.D. he joined the group of M. Shaposhnikov as a postdoc at EPFL to conduct research on baryogenesis. He later went for another postdoc in the group of J. Berges at TU Darmstadt (and later Heidelberg University), where he worked on non-equilibrium quantum field theory, transport coefficients and dark energy. A common theme of J-S' research is (equilibrium and non-equilibrium) field theory applied to problems in particle physics and cosmology. He is now applying field theory to chemical systems of the reaction-diffusion type that mimic some aspects of living systems. More specifically, he is applying dynamical renormalization group techniques to the study of fine-graining of those reaction-diffusion equations.

Research Interests: Equilibrium and nonequilibrium quantum field theory, the intersection of particle physics and cosmology (baryogenesis, dark energy), stochastic reaction-diffusion systems applied to synthetic living systems, multiscaling and multifractals.

Dr. Guragain
Dr. Sudhina Guragain

Sudhina Guragain () earned her Masters Degree in Organic Chemistry from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and received her PhD degree in Colloidal Chemistry from Saga University, Japan. After receiving her PhD, she worked as a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at Kumamoto University and as a Postdoctoral Researcher in National Institute for Material Science, Japan. She is now working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Professor Perez-Mercader's group, where she is working on the fabrication of polymeric vesicles and utilizing them as nano-reactors for oscillating chemical reaction for the investigation of origin of life.

Research Interests: Block Copolymers, Stimuli-Responsive Polymers, Self-Assembly, Micelles, Polymersomes, Nanomaterials, Origin of Life.

Alberto P.
Dr. Alberto P. Muñuzuri

Alberto P. Muñuzuri earned his undergraduate degree in the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain where he completed his PhD. During his PhD he worked in different laboratories, Prof. V.I. Krinsky (INLN-CNRS, Nice, France), Prof. M. Marcus (Max Plank Institut, Dortmund, Germany), Prof. E. Hofer (Univ. of Graz, Austria). Following this, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Dept. at the Univ. of California at Berkeley (USA), group of Prof. L.O. Chua and later at the group of Prof. Epstein and Prof. Zhabotinsky at the Univ. of Brandeis (USA). He is a permanent professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain where he was the leader of the Group of Non Linear Physics for several years and has been collaborating with different scientific groups in Europe and America.

Research Interests: Spatio-temporal pattern formation in Complex Systems. Modelling biophysics. Autowaves, Turing structures, patterns in general. Hydrodynamic instabilities coupled with pattern-forming reactions. Decision making algorithms in robotics based in biological waves.

Dr. Ren
Dr. Kaixuan Ren

Kaixuan Ren earned her Ph.D degree in polymer chemistry and physics from Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences in July 2015. Her research focused on the design and synthesis of polypeptide-based copolymers, fabrication of hydrogels as 3D scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering. She joined the Prof. Pérez-Mercader's group as a postdoctoral fellow in November 2015.

Research Interests: Synthesis of Amphiphilic Block Copolymers, Polymerization-Induced Self-Assembly, Giant Vesicles, Oscillating Chemical Reactions, Origins of Life.

Scientific Computing Specialist

Alec Pawling
Dr. Alec Pawling

Alec Pawling () earned a Bachelors of Science in computer science from Truman State University and a Masters of Science and Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from the University of Notre Dame. He studied streaming algorithms as a Masters student and stream mining and data warehousing as a Ph.D. student. He previously worked as a data manager and system administrator for a physics research group.

Professional Interests: Parallel Programming, Computer Vision, System Administration, Web Development.

Program Administrator

Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley () studied psychology at Brandeis University. He spent many years as a corporate IT executive managing large and complex projects and teams.

Professional Interests: Transdisciplinary research projects that have the potential to have significant real world impact.