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Dr. Mona Minkara
Principal Investigator
Dr. Mona S. Minkara
Tenure-Track Assistant Professor
Department of Bioengineering
Affiliated Faculty of Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Dr. Minkara's passion for research began during her undergraduate studies at Wellesley College. While pursuing her BA in Chemistry, she joined the research group of Dr. Mala Radhakrishnan where she used computational methods to explore the binding of drugs to HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase. After completing her BA in 2009, Dr. Minkara spent a year conducting research under a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Grant. In 2010, she continued onto graduate studies at the University of Florida supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Under her co-advisors, Dr. Kenneth M. Merz Jr. and Dr. Erik Deumens, she focused on using molecular dynamics simulations to design a new inhibitor for Helicobacter pylori urease, an enzyme that helps bacteria survive in the stomach. In 2015, she received her Ph.D in Chemistry. Her graduate studies were followed by a post-doc at the Chemical Theory Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in the lab of Dr. J. Ilja Siepmann. In this role, Dr. Minkara used Monte Carlo simulations to explore the interfacial properties of surfactants, the surface tension of water, and the miscibility gap of supercritical fluids. In addition, she was also awarded a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Dr. Minkara joined the Department of Bioengineering at Northeastern University in August of 2019 as a tenure-track Assistant Professor. In November of 2019, she became an Affiliate Faculty of the Chemistry & Chemical Biology Department. Throughout her career, her work has led to numerous publications in high-impact journals, presentations and posters at the national and local conferences, and several awards recognizing her achievements. Dr. Minkara is also an active member of the American Chemical Society and the Biomedical Engineering Society and serves on a committee in each organization.
Fun fact: Dr. Minkara is a huge Harry Potter fan, enjoys knitting, and loves drinking tea. Seriously. She really likes tea. There is a 100% chance she will offer you tea if you meet with her in her office.
Postdoctoral Researcher
Lydia Ruffner
Lydia Ruffner is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Bioengineering. Her research in the COMBINE lab focuses on exploring the function of proteins in the pulmonary surfactant system such as surfactant protein C (SP-C). She recently defended her PhD from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Northeastern University in early 2021. Her dissertation work used enzyme structure to determine the global and local structural differences in dynamics that may lead to the functional characterization of important disease related enzymes in uncharacterized metabolic pathways for pharmaceutical application. She is an alumna of Spelman College (C’14) where she majored in Biochemistry with a minor in Mathematics. Born in a DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) native who loves to traveling and enjoys spending times with family and friends.
Graduate Students
Deng Li
Deng Li is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Bioengineering. His research focuses on the application of molecular dynamics simulations to explore the molecular mechanisms of the pulmonary surfactant system, particularly those of surfactant protein D (SP-D). In 2020, Deng graduated from the National Taiwan University, having received a Master's degree in Civil Engineering where he investigated the molecular mechanisms of cartilage tissue degradation. He likes climbing mountains and running marathons. He has climbed one-third of the One Hundred Peaks of Taiwan, each of which has an altitude over 3000 meters.
Undergraduate Students
Jake Duffy
My name is Jake, and I’m a first year computer science and physics student. I grew up about 45 minutes north of Chicago. I’m working on Monte Carlo simulations of pentadecanoic acid (PDA), and I’m excited to be conducting research in computational chemistry as it both applies my computer science curriculum as well as extends my knowledge to a new field.
Tyler Locke
Tyler is a first-year biomedical physics and math student and is very excited to apply his education doing research in the COMBINE lab. He will be working on molecular dynamics simulations of surfactant protein B. Tyler will also be running the Boston Marathon in April 2020!
Carolina Escobar Palacio
Hello! My name is Carolina and I’m a third-year bioinformatics student. I finished high school in 2013 in Medellin, Colombia (where I was also born) and I’ve been living in the U.S. for 6 years now. In the combine lab, I’m using molecular dynamics simulations to study SARS-CoV-2 proteins. I’m very excited about my project as I will be using different concepts of bioinformatics and apply them to such a relevant topic! My long-term goal is to pursue a PhD and do research related to computational chemistry.
Jaiden Cruger
Jaiden is a fifth year BS/MS bioengineering student at Northeastern University. She is also pursuing a minor in computer science. She is using molecular dynamics simulations to study palmitic acid in the context of pulmonary surfactant. After graduating, she plans to pursue research in computational biology.
Alya Abd Aziz
My name is Alya and I am a fourth year undergraduate Bioengineering and Biochemistry combined major. I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and grew up between the city and our farm in the outskirts. Some of my goals for the future include attending medical school to learn about gastroenterology, or become a personal trainer! I am excited to join the COMBINE lab and practice my coding skills for real-life application.
High School Students
Rohit Paradkar
Rohit Paradkar is a sophomore at Newton South High School. He’s originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and loves to ski and spend time outdoors. He’s very passionate about chemistry, biology, and computer science. He also loves to play tennis and watch football. His work in COMBINE lab deals with molecular docking for SARS-CoV-2 drug discovery.
Liam Farley
My name is Liam, I am a senior year chemistry student at Reed College. I am Brazilian-American who loves snowboarding, hiking, and the ocean. I am excited to be expanding my knowledge into the field of biology and developing my computational research skills. Currently, I am using molecular docking and molecular dynamics simulations to study SARS-CoV-2 proteins and identify possible drug leads.
Zachary Tamweber
Zack is a third year Bioengineering and Biochemistry student concentrating in cell and tissue engineering. Additionally, he is pursuing a career in medicine and hopes to incorporate research into his work. Zack is excited to be working on molecular dynamics simulations of surfactant protein A (SP-A) in the COMBINE lab. Originally from New York, Zack loves mountain biking and the outdoors!
Catherine Zhou
Hi! I’m Catherine, and I’m a first-year Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry major pursuing the pre-med track. I’m from the suburbs north of Dallas, TX. I will soon be working on researching the vapor liquid coexistence of pentadecanoic acid and palmitic acid using Monte Carlo Simulations. I am excited to apply my chemical engineering knowledge to real-world research, and to further sharpen my programming skills along the way.
Carmen Graham
Carmen Graham is a first year bioengineering student and is working on molecular dynamics simulations of DPPC. She was born in Houston, TX, and graduated high school from the International School of Kuala Lumpur in 2019. She knows that she wants to do research in the future and is excited to be working on a research project as an undergrad.