McDermott Graduate Fellows

Alumni Fellows

Dr. Jennifer M. Boothby

Jenny Boothby received her B.S. in biomedical engineering from Georgia Tech in 2014 and her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from UT Dallas in 2019 (mentor: Taylor Ware, Ph.D.). In 2016, she won an NSF Graduate Fellowship for her work on utilizing liquid crystal polymers for biological applications. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab applying her experience in smart, responsive polymers to solve national challenges.

Dr. Candace E. Benjamin

Candace Benjamin earned a B.S. in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry from Saint John Fisher College in 2014. A 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winner, Candace earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from UT Dallas in 2020 (mentor: Jeremiah Gassensmith, Ph.D.) investigating the production of more localized drug delivery methods to reduce side effects.

Dr. Maria G. Castaneda

Maria Castaneda earned a B.S. in biochemistry (2014) at The University of Tulsa and a doctorate in chemistry (2019) from UT Dallas (mentor: Jiyong Lee, Ph.D.). During her graduate career Maria studied the inhibition of cancer metastasis by discovering a small molecule inhibitor of the transcription factor FOXC2, helping her earn the 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Most recently Maria was awarded the NIH T32 fellowship in translational genomics and precision medicine approaches in cancer (2019) as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Sendurai Mani at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center. While at MD Anderson Cancer Research Center, Maria will be investigating the role of FOXC2 in cancer stem cell determination.

Dr. Gregory T. Ellson

Greg Ellson earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 2014 and his doctorate in materials science and engineering from UT Dallas in 2017 (mentor: Walter E. Voit, Ph.D.). Greg’s research centers on the development of high-performance photopolymers for 3D printing, bioelectronics, and artificial muscle applications. Currently head of process control at MIT spin-out Inkbit, LLC, Greg works with industrial partners to develop novel 3D-printed products.

Dr. Blair Flicker

Blair Flicker earned a B.S. in computer science and a B.S. in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006 and an MBA (2012) and Ph.D. in management science (mentor: Elena Katok, Ph.D.) from UT Dallas in 2019. In 2017, Blair received an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant to support his research into human-computer integration as it relates to economic decision-making. Currently, Blair is an Assistant Professor of Management Science at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Jeffrey A. Hullfish

Jeff Hullfish earned his B.S.E. in acoustical engineering and music with a minor in mathematics from the University of Hartford in 2013, his M.Sc. in engineering acoustics from the Technical University of Denmark in 2015, and his Ph.D. in cognition and neuroscience from UT Dallas in 2019 (mentor: Sven Vanneste, Ph.D.). His doctoral research produced several papers investigating the pathological changes underlying tinnitus. Jeff is currently a data scientist with the Biosignature Analytics division at Design Interactive, Inc.

Dr. Daria Kurandina

Daria Kurandina earned her B.S. degree in chemistry in 2014 from Saint Petersburg State University in Russia and her Ph.D. degree in organic chemistry in 2020 from UT Dallas. Her graduate research was conducted under supervision of Dr. Vladimir Gevorgyan and focused on discovery and development of novel synthetic methodologies and investigation of reaction mechanisms. She has joined Dr. Omar Yaghi’s group at UC Berkeley as a postdoctoral fellow where she will work in the field of reticular chemistry.

Dr. Salvador Moreno

Salvador Moreno earned a B.S. (2014), M.S. (2015), and Ph.D. (2019, mentor: Majid Minary-Jolandan, Ph.D.) in mechanical engineering from UT Dallas. A 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awardee, Salvador studies biomaterials, particularly collagen, for flexible electronics applications. Currently research is advancing the additive manufacturing of nanostructured metals established through NSF INTERN.

Dr. Aarron J. Phensy

A local resident native to Oak Cliff, Texas, Aarron earned both a B.S. in computer science (2014) as well as a Ph.D. in cognition and neuroscience (2020) from UT Dallas. As a graduate student Aarron investigated the role of mitochondrial-induced oxidative stress in schizophrenia under the supervision of Dr. Sven Kroener and was recognized in 2018 with an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Fellowship (F31). He now works as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Vikaas Sohal at UCSF where he is trying to understand the cellular and circuit components responsible for the generation of neural oscillations during cognitive processing; and how this may be disrupted in mental illness.

Dr. Jonathan T. Reeder

Jonathan Reeder earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering (2012) and a doctorate in materials science and engineering (2016) from UT Dallas (mentor: Walter E. Voit, Ph.D.). A 2013 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship winner, he researches flexible and stretchable electronics for biomedical applications. After a stint running tech startup Pascalor, Inc., Jonathan is now a postdoctoral fellow with the John A. Rogers group at Northwestern University.

Dr. Radu Reit

Radu Reit earned his B.S. in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech in 2012 and his doctorate in biomedical engineering at UT Dallas in 2016 (mentor: Walter E. Voit, Ph.D.). He won an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2013 for his work developing novel polymers for electronic device applications. Radu is currently the CTO of materials research firm Ares Materials.

Dr. Robert “Joey” J. Steininger

Joey Steininger earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from MIT in 2006 and a Ph.D. in cellular regulation and pharmacology (mentors: Steven J. Altschuler, Ph.D. and Lani F. Wu, Ph.D.) from the University of Texas Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2014. Joey’s work focuses on gene editing applications for allergies and autoimmune disease.

Dr. Allison M. Stiller

Allison Stiller received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Rochester in 2016 and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from UT Dallas in 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph Pancrazio. Her thesis work focused on the use of softening, polymer materials to improve the chronic reliability of intracortical recording devices. Allison will be joining ClearView Healthcare Partners in Boston, MA as a Life Sciences Consultant.

Dr. Peng Xie

Peng Xie graduated from Tsinghua University in 2013 with a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in control science and engineering. He earned his doctorate in molecular and cell biology from UT Dallas in 2018 (mentor: Michael Q. Zhang, Ph.D). Peng’s research focuses on computational biology, gene regulation and machine learning.

Dr. Cong Zhang

Cong Zhang earned degrees in basic medical science (2013) and pathology (2016) from Peking University before completing her Ph.D. in statistics at UT Dallas in 2020 (mentor: Min Chen, Ph.D.). Cong’s research is centered on integrating pan-omics data to reveal mechanisms driving cancer, translating -omics data to personalized medicine, and modeling pheromone-inducible conjugation in Enterococcus faecalis contributing to antibiotic resistance. She is currently a Data Scientist and Statistical Consultant at Novartis.

Dr. Rui Zhang

Rui Zhang graduated from Northwestern Polytechnical University with a B.S. (2011) and a M.S. (2014) in aerospace engineering, before completing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at UT Dallas in 2020 (mentor: Dong Qian, Ph.D.). Rui’s research focuses on computational solid mechanics, multiscale and multiphysics methods for advanced materials, and parallel computing techniques. He is currently a Senior Software Engineer – Computational Mechanics at Alta Dynamics, Inc., a Boston-area startup.

Dr. Hanqi “Leon” Zhu

Leon Zhu earned B.S. (2011) and M.S. (2013) degrees in mechanical engineering from the Xi’an Jiaotong University, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from UT Dallas in 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Gregg. His work on advanced mechatronics systems for application in wearable rehabilitation robots is the foundation of his career as CEO of Enhanced Robotics.