Irving S. Sigal Postdoctoral Fellowship Recipients

Current Recipient

Dr. Olja Simoska

The American Chemical Society has awarded the 13th Irving S. Sigal Postdoctoral Fellowship (2020-2022) to Dr. Olja Simoska.

Olja completed her doctoral studies in December of 2019, under the supervision of Prof. Keith J. Stevenson at the University of Texas at Austin. Her doctoral dissertation is titled “Real-time Monitoring of the Dynamic Metabolism and Responses of Pathogenic Bacteria using Electroanalytical Methods.” The electrochemical results from her doctoral research provide a strong quantitative basis for understanding microbial infections and virulence mechanisms in very complex biological systems. She has very impressive academic accomplishments, awards/honors, and publications/presentations lists.

For her Irving S. Sigal Postdoctoral Fellowship, Olja’s research will focus on methodically exploring genetic engineering approaches to improve extracellular electron transfer and performance of microbial fuel cells. Her postdoctoral research will be under the supervision of Prof. Shelley D. Minteer at the Chemistry Department at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

Past Recipients

Dr. Herdeline Ann M. Ardoña (2018-2020 Sigal Fellow)

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, Irvine (appointment in late 2020)

Fellowship Topic: Herdeline completed her doctoral studies in 2017 at Johns Hopkins University, under the supervision of Professors John D. Tovar and Hai-Quan Mao. Her postdoctoral research will be on “Biohybrid Integration of Photoresponsive Polymeric Interfaces” under the supervision of Professor Kevin Kit Parker at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University. Herdeline’s doctoral dissertation is titled “Molecular Engineering Strategies for the Development of Energy Transporting Conjugated Systems Towards Bioelectronics.” Her doctoral research focused on the development of new ways to effectively generate localized electric fields within the internal electronic conduits of peptide-based nanomaterials and exploring the underlying molecular design rules that govern their self-assembly mechanisms. For her Irving S. Sigal Postdoctoral Fellowship, Herdeline will develop photoresponsive polymeric surfaces that can be integrated with biohybrid tissues. This photomodulated platform can potentially enable a label-free spatiotemporal control over the actuation of engineered in vitro tissues.

Dr. Lisa Olshansky (2016-2018 Sigal Fellow)

Assistant Professor of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, IL

Fellowship Topic:
For her Irving S. Sigal Postdoctoral Fellowship, Lisa will investigate how nature controls the reactivity of metallocofactor intermediates for the oxidation of strong chemical bonds. Lisa completed her doctoral studies in 2015, under the supervision of Professor Daniel G. Nocera at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lisa’s postdoctoral research will be on “Artificial Metalloenzymes for Structure-Function Correlations of C–H Bond Oxidation”, under the supervision of Professor A. S. Borovik at University of California, Irvine. Oxidation reactions performed by metalloenzymes maintain specificity and catalytic efficiencies not yet matched by synthetic systems and the general understanding of how nature harnesses the energy of O–O bond homolysis for C–H bond functionalization remains incomplete. The proposed studies by Lisa aim to reveal the underlying structure-function (and dysfunction) relationships operative within oxygenase metalloenzymes that are critical to metabolic and signaling pathways, and in the management of reactive oxygen species. These questions will be probed through the preparation of artificial metalloproteins in which the host-guest interaction of streptavidin and biotin is used to insert biotinylated metal complexes into the protein interior. Combining chemical modulation of the ligand scaffold with genetic modification of the surrounding protein microenvironment, the ability to control and systematically vary all aspects of the metal ion coordination sphere will be achieved. These studies represent a method with which to prepare novel biomimetic systems and a means to correlate the structure-function paradigms underlying bioinorganic oxygenase reactivity.

Dr. Maraia Ener-Goetz (2014-2016 Sigal Fellow)

Fellowship Topic: Development and Implementation of Peptide Cavities to Control Ultrafast Proton Transfer. Maraia completed her doctoral studies in December 2013, under the supervision of Professor Harry B. Gray in the Department of Chemistry at California Institute of Technology. She conducted her postdoctoral studies in the research groups of Professors Tom Spiro and David Baker at University of Washington and in collaboration with Professor James Mayer of Yale University. Maraia’s doctoral dissertation was on “Electron Flow Through Cytochrome P450”. For her Irving S. Sigal Postdoctoral Fellowship, Maraia investigated how proteins direct the movement of one of the smallest chemical reactants: the proton. Proteins harness proton transfers (PTs) to drive structural changes and tune important catalytic reactions. Cell survival depends on precise control over these processes, however, the ubiquity of hydrogen bonds and ultrafast timescale of PT hinder the detailed study of PT mechanisms in biological systems. To address these challenges, Maraia developed two-component model systems to probe PT within a peptide pocket, and studied the ultrafast vibrational dynamics of the PT processes using Femtosecond Stimulated Raman Spectroscopy (FSRS). A broad array of molecular interactions between the PT-pair and peptide cavity were engineered by an iterative process of computational peptide design and experimental characterization. Realization of these objectives helped to develop better and more accurate models of enzyme active sites, and aided the study of similar interactions within complex, native biochemical systems.

Dr. Siddhesh S. Kamat (2012-2014 Sigal Fellow)

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology and Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune, Pune, Maharashtra

Fellowship Topic: Lipidomic and functional proteomic methods to identify the major reactive oxygen species (ROS)-generated lipid products. Dr. Kamat was a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the lab of Benjamin F. Cravatt, in the Department of Chemical Physiology & The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, at the The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA. Here, Dr. Kamat was investigating novel metabolic pathways with emphasis on the serine hydrolase family of enzymes. He applied this research into investigating novel biological mechanisms and pathways prevalent in various diseases. Currently, at IISER Pune, Dr. Kamat’s chemical biology lab is interested in using chemical probes in conjunction with advanced mass spectrometry based metabolomics and proteomics techniques to study biological processes in particular lipid signaling & metabolism.

Dr. Samuel J. Lord (2010-2012 Sigal Fellow)

Bioinfomatics Specialist I, Department: M. Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Francisco, CA

Fellowship Topic: Using supported lipid bilayers to investigate the physical underpinning of signaling in cells. Dr. Lord was a postdoctoral fellow in the Dyche Mullins' Laboratory at the University of California in San Francisco, CA. Here, he continued the research that was supported by the Sigal Fellowship, using fluorescence microscopy and supported lipid bilayers as tools to study how the spatial organization of biomolecules and mechanical forces within and between cells influence cell-cell signaling.

Dr. John Hoerter (2008-2010 Sigal Fellow)

Investigator III, Geonomics Division, The Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF), San Diego, CA

Fellowship Topic: Dynamics, Degredation, and Chemical Modification of Non-Coding RNA. Dr. Hoerter was a Research Fellow in the Laboratory of Professor Nicholas Gascoigne, Department of Immunology and Microbial Science at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. Here, Dr. Hoerter continued the research that was supported by the Sigal Fellowship, the study of intermolecular interactions at the immunologic synapse. Currently, he is an Investigator in Drug Discovery Oncology at GNF.

Dr. Shanlin Pan (2006-2008 Sigal Fellow)

Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The College of Arts and Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Fellowship Topic: Photoluminescence Enhancement by Surface Plasmon Resonance of Metallic Nanostructures and Its Applications. Dr. Pan did his postdoctoral work at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, as a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Alabama, Dr. Pan’s research areas include electrochemistry, clean energy storage and harvesting, Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy, nanostructured metal and semiconductor electrode materials.

Dr. Matthew G. Woll (2004-2006 Sigal Fellow)

PTC Therapeutics, Dunellen, NJ

Fellowship Topic: A New Strategy to Asymmetrically Open Aziridines with a Heterobimetallic Catalyst. Dr. Woll did his postdoctoral work at Harvard University under the supervision of Professor Eric N. Jacobsen. Currently, Dr. Woll is a Principal Scientist at a small pharmaceutical company, PTC Therapeutics, in Dunellen, NJ. He is working on a treatment for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Dr. Hendrik Luesch (2002-2004 Sigal Fellow)

Professor and Chair, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Fellowship Topic: Elucidation of the Mechanism of Action of Aoratoxin A, a Cytotoxic Marine Natural Product. Dr. Luesch was a Postdoctoral Fellow at The Scripps Research Institute working with adviser Professor Peter G. Schultz in the area of functional genomics and chemical biology. In 2005, he joined the faculty of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Florida as an assistant professor and was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 2010 and to full professor in 2015. Dr. Luesch combines his interest in marine natural products chemistry with genomics and proteomics approaches for the discovery and characterization of potential drugs and molecular drug targets.

Dr. Sarah E. O’Connor (2000-2002 Sigal Fellow)

Director, Department of Natural Product Biosynthesis, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany

Fellowship Topic: Characterization of the EpoA Subunit of the Epothilone Synthetase Complex: Biosynthesis of a Potent Anti-Cancer Agent. Dr. O’Connor was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemistry at Harvard Medical School under the supervision of Professor Christopher Walsh. In 2003 she joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and became an assistant professor and then was promoted to associate professor in 2007. Currently, Dr. O’Connor is a Project Leader at the John Innes Centre Department of Biological Chemistry in Norwich, UK. Dr. O’Connor is working on plant natural product biosynthesis.

Dr. Danith H. Ly (1998-2000 Sigal Fellow)

Professor, Department of Chemistry, Mellon College of Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Fellowship Topic: A New Strategy for the Design and Synthesis of Artificial Proteins and Enzymes Based on Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA) Recognition: Development of Artificial Restriction Enzymes. Dr. Ly did his postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley and at Scripps Research Institute under the supervision of Professor Peter G. Schultz, 1998–2001. He joined the Department of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University in 2001 as an Assistant Professor. Currently, as a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Ly is working on the development of molecular tools and reagents to regulate gene expression and probe protein localization and dynamics in cells and intact organisms.

Dr. Paul S. Cremer (1996-1998 Sigal Fellow)

Professor of Chemistry at the J. Lloyd Huck Chair in Natural Sciences, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The Eberly College of Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Fellowship Topic: Investigation and Manipulation of Supported Lipid Bilayers and Model Membranes by Integrated Microelectronic Components Created with Nanolithography. Dr. Cremer did his postdoctoral work at Stanford University under the supervision of Professor Steven G. Boxer. Currently, Dr. Cremer is the J. Lloyd Huck Chair in Natural Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Cremer’s laboratory works at the crossroads of biological interfaces, nanomaterials, spectroscopy, and microfluidics.