PEOPLE

JEFF MARTELL

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR

B.A. 2009, Northwestern University
Ph.D. 2015, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Poctdoctoral Researcher at University of California, Berkeley, 2015 – 2019

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Jeff was born and raised in Chicago, and he was an undergraduate at Northwestern, where he did research in the group of Rick Silverman on organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and enzymology. Jeff did his PhD in Chemistry at MIT in the group of Alice Ting, where he used protein engineering and directed evolution to create new tools for studying cell biology. Inspired by the idea of creating protein-mimicking cavities in synthetic materials, he did postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley in the group of Jeff Long, where he studied diamine-appended metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) for cooperative CO2 capture and developed a chiral MOF for enantioselective recognition. At UW-Madison, Jeff is excited to build a team of interdisciplinary researchers that draws from biochemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and materials to create enzyme-mimicking catalysts.

GRADUATE STUDENTS

Leslie Acevedo

Position title: Joined 2022

Email: lacevedo@wisc.edu

Leslie received her B.S in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she worked with Dr. Steven Zimmerman synthesizing polymers for drug delivery. She has previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry where she worked with biopharmaceutical compounds for analytical and stability testing. Outside of the lab, Leslie enjoys hiking and cross-country traveling with her husband.

Jedidiah Chung

Position title: Joined 2019

Email: jschung4@wisc.edu

Jed has a B.S in Chemistry from University of Delaware. He has previously worked under professor Zhihao Zhuang in developing activity-based ubiquitin probes to study deubiquitinase activities in cells. Outside labs, he enjoys very enthusiastic walks.

Caleb Cox

Position title: Joined 2020

Email: cacox2@wisc.edu

Caleb has a B.S. in Chemistry and Mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As an undergraduate, he worked with Professor Abigail Knight synthesizing peptide-polymer amphiphiles and studying structural changes due to self-assembly. In his free time, Caleb enjoys cooking, playing video games, and hiking.

Mario Cribari

Position title: Joined 2018

Email: cribari@wisc.edu

Mario has a B.S. in Chemistry and in Biophysics from Xavier University. During his undergraduate work he spent time researching protein folding. He also worked at the University of Cincinnati medical school in a research capacity, looking into the genetic and protein level effects of schizophrenia. In his free time Mario loves to play video games and also is a big trivia buff.

Sifei Fang

Position title: Joined 2019

Email: sfang38@wisc.edu

Sifei got his B.A. in Chemistry from University of Minnesota Twin Cities. During this time, he worked on utilizing photo-cleavable protecting groups to study intermediate states of biological processes and to spatial-temporal control drug releasing using two-photon irradiation. When Sifei is not in the lab, he likes to be a Pokémon trainer and a competitive Pokémon battler.

Jean Paul Habumugisha

Position title: Joined 2021

Email: habumugisha@wisc.edu

Jean Paul graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a BS in Biochemistry.  He has previously worked in the biotech industry where he manufactured chemical reagents for lateral flow diagnostic devices for infectious diseases early detection. In his free time, He enjoys watching and playing soccer, hiking, listening to music and spending time with friends.

David Hardy

Position title: Joined 2023

Email: dehardy2@wisc.edu

David received a B.S. in biochemistry from Florida Gulf Coast University, where he worked with Durgesh Wagle performing computational research on deep eutectic solvents and their interactions with complex biomolecules. He also attended an REU at George Washington University where he studied ubiquitin ligases. Davids loves strategy games, old books, sunny days, and physical activity.

Ethan Hartman

Position title: Joined 2021

Email: emhartman@wisc.edu

Ethan received his B.S. in chemistry from Washington and Lee University. His undergraduate research focused on examining the process of RNA translation in yeast. He also spent a summer REU at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign doing organic synthesis. Outside of lab, Ethan enjoys going to various Badgers sporting events on campus especially wrestling.

Eric Kohn

Position title: Joined 2019

Email: emkohn3@wisc.edu

Eric earned B.S. degrees in Biochemistry and Biological Sciences from Rowan University, where he studied peptide and protein biophysics. He currently works on novel strategies for engineering aptamers. Outside the lab, Eric likes to read, hike, and learn how to fix things.

Kailey Komnick

Position title: Joined 2021

Email: kkomnick@wisc.edu

Kailey has a B.S. in Chemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As an undergraduate, she worked with Dr. Paul Hergenrother, where she synthesized derivatives of fusidic acid, an antibiotic used to treat MRSA infections. Outside of the lab, she enjoys being outside, learning new skills, spending time with friends, and studying ASL.

Andres Lira

Position title: Joined 2024

Email: alira3@wisc.edu

Andres received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California Davis where he worked with Dr. Justin Seigel characterizing β-Glucosidase mutants for benchmarking Rosetta stability predictions. He has enrolled as a post-baccalaureate at Northwestern University under Dr. Gabriel Rocklin where he benchmarked protein fold stability to Rosetta protein stability predictions. He then enrolled in the Biophysics graduate program and joined Dr. Philip Romero’s lab where he worked on prototyping the use of Rosetta docking data for machine-learning guided protein engineering from 2022-2024. Outside of lab, Andres enjoys backpack camping, fishing, and video games.

Eli Mertick-Sykes

Position title: Joined 2022

Email: merticksykes@wisc.edu

Eli received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Pennsylvania State University. His undergraduate research focused on phase-separating proteins and methods to detect liquid-liquid phase separation in cells. Outside of the lab, he enjoys rock climbing, listening to music, writing, and exploring the surrounding area.

Edward Pimentel

Position title: Joined 2018

Email: epimentel@wisc.edu

Edward got his B.S. in Chemistry from Brigham Young University, where he worked on natural product synthesis. He has also worked on herbicide development as an intern at Dow AgroSciences and on Joshua Tree research at Deep Springs College. When he’s not in the lab, he likes to play board games and spend time with his wife and two daughters.

Lizzy Sielaff

Position title: Joined 2022

Email: esielaff@wisc.edu

Lizzy earned her B.S. in Biochemistry from Grand Valley State University. As an undergraduate she worked with Dr. Shannon Biros synthesizing a lanthanide-ligand complex designed to target and illuminate cancerous tissue. Outside of lab, Lizzy loves listening to podcasts, doing puzzles, and visiting local coffee shops.

Zach Ziolkowski

Position title: Joined 2022

Email: zbziolkowski@wisc.edu

Zach has a B.S. in Chemistry from The College of New Jersey. As an undergraduate, he worked with Dr. Levi Ekanger designing an inhibitor assay for a key bacterial stress response metalloprotein and synthesizing model complexes to study the iron coordination chemistry of cysteine analogues. In his free time, Zach likes to play video games, make music, and spend time with friends.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS

Sasha Hsu

Position title: Joined 2023

Email: sthsu@wisc.edu

Sasha is a first-year undergraduate working towards her B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology. She is currently working with her graduate student mentor Sifei Fang on directed evolution of enzymes. During her free time, Sasha enjoys playing music, traveling, and playing pickleball with friends and family.

Mia Lor

Position title: Joined 2023

Email: mdlor@wisc.edu

Mia is a first-year undergraduate working towards her B.S. in biochemistry and computer science. She is currently working under her research mentor Kailey Komnick. During her free time, she loves playing her viola, baking, and (making very poor attempts at) playing tennis.

FORMER GROUP MEMBERS

Hassan Alkhunaizi

Position title: Former Undergraduate Student, B.S. 2022

Current Position: PhD student, Duke University, Department of Chemistry

Elliot Delfosse

Position title: Former Undergraduate Student, B.S. 2024

Current Position: Graduate Student, University of Washington

Christian Gomez

Position title: Former Undergraduate Student, B.S. 2023

Current Position: Associate Scientist, Bioconjugation at Arrowhead Pharmaceutical

Gillian Good

Position title: Former Graduate Student, M.S. 2021

Current Position: LabCorp Drug Development (formerly Covance)

Annika Hansen

Position title: Former Undergraduate Student, B.S. 2024

Current Position: MD student at Medical College of Wisconsin

Justice Merrifield

Position title: Former Undergraduate Student (B.S. 2022) and Research Intern (2023)

Current Position: DVM/PhD student at UW-Madison

Ashley Ogorek

Position title: Former Graduate Student, Ph.D. 2024

Current Position: Postdoc, University of Chicago

Max Unger

Position title: Former Undergraduate Student, B.S. 2023

Current Position: PhD student at University of Michigan in the Department of Chemistry

Hang Yin

Position title: Former Undergraduate Student, B.S. 2023

Current Position: Assistant scientist at Thermo Fisher Scientific

Xu Zhou

Position title: Former Postdoc, 2024

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Nanjing University