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Advanced Technology Team -- Bios


Michael Aizenberg, Ph.D.

Michael Aizenberg, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist, Synthetic Chemistry

Having worked extensively in both academic research and industrial development, Aizenberg has broad synthetic chemistry experience -- from organic and polymer to organometallic, inorganic, and even nuclear. As a Senior Staff Scientist at the Wyss, he is mostly involved in the Programmable Nanomaterials and Adaptive Material Technologies platforms. Aizenberg received his Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1996. His main research interests are in using synthetic chemistry tools to design active and programmable materials and drug-delivery systems, in tissue engineering, nanoparticle synthesis, microfabrication, and in developing energy-efficient materials and devices.


Omar Ali

Omar Ali, Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Ali's research interests focus on biomaterials engineering for the development of immunotherapies. He specifically works on designing cell-instructive systems that enable the study and control of immune processes. He completed his Ph.D. in 2008 at Harvard University, where he designed materials to act as infection mimics and to program immune cells in situ. Ali initiated a collaboration with scientists at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute to develop these material systems into cancer vaccines that eradicated melanoma tumors in mice. Prior to joining the Wyss, Ali was the founding scientist at a start-up and conducted NIH-funded, preclinical work on vaccine designs for brain cancer. His prior research includes the fabrication of adhesive substrates and the development of wound healing models. Omar received his B.S.E. in chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota, and earned his Ph.D. in engineering sciences at Harvard University. Contact:


Omar Ali

Maria Athanassiu, M.S., Staff Electrical Engineer

Maria's background includes extensive practical experience in advanced product research and development, specializing in large vehicle robotic systems. She is interested in combining her hands-on experience in robotics with her interest in medical devices and the various research projects ongoing at the Wyss. Prior to joining the Wyss, she worked as a senior electrical engineer at QinetiQ North America and at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics. She received her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering and Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University. Maria is currently pursuing her second Master of Science degree in Systems Engineering and Project Management at Johns Hopkins University.


Deen Bhatta

Deen Bhatta, M.Sc., M.S., Staff Scientist

Bhatta's research interests focus on aerosol drug delivery, nanotherapeutics, and novel powder process development. He is an expert in Porous Nanoparticle Aggregate formulation and preparation via spray drying. Prior to joining the Wyss, he established and managed the laboratory at AeroDesigns, a start-up company pioneering air-based delivery systems to reimagine the consumption of food, nutrients, and medications. In addition, he conducted research in aerosolized vaccine and pulmonary drug delivery development in the laboratory of Professor David A. Edwards at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He received his M.Sc. from Tribhuvan Viswabidhyalaya in Nepal and M.S. from Miami University of Ohio. Contact:


Robert Blough

Tom Blough, MSCS, Senior Staff Engineer

Blough's professional interests focus on translating research ideas to testable prototypes and in developing manufacturing processeses that allow scale up for production. His industry experience includes extensive hands-on machining and prototype fabrications, testing, data collections, tooling design and fabrications, and productions scale up both in defense R&D and in commerical products. He has both product-design and manufacturing-process patents. In developing building materials his research and personal interests overlap: His breadth of building experience ranges from field installation to designing and overseeing the construction of testing and manufacturing facilities. He earned his BSME from the University of Texas at Arlington and his MSCS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Contact:


Mark Cartwright

Mark J. Cartwright, Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Cartwright's research interests focus on the discovery and engineering of therapeutic and diagnostic antibodies. Before joining the Wyss, he worked in the pharmaceutical industry for three years using Phage Display for the discovery, design, and production of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies for cancer treatment. Prior research includes the study of age-related changes in preadipocytes and work in the area of neuronal differentiation and survival with a focus on neurotrophins. Cartwright has a patent stemming from his work on the isolation of a novel toxin from Borrelia Burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. He received his B.Sc in Neurobiology from McGill University and his Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics from Boston University.


Nicholas Conway, S.M., Staff Engineer

Conway's research interests include a broad scope of the Wyss Institutes initiative: as a staff engineer he works on Anticipatory Medical and Cellular Devices platforms as well as DNA synthesis, sequencing and design tools. Prior to joining the Wyss, he worked at Lincoln Laboratory and as a consultant in the aftermarket automotive industry. Conway is a graduate of UC Berkeley and MIT.




Ed Doherty

Ed Doherty, M.S., Senior Staff Scientist

Doherty has over 25 years of professional experience in product development, process development, clinical production, and the commercial manufacture of medical devices, biologics, and pharmaceuticals. Prior to joining the Wyss, he was developing a programmable polymer melanoma vaccine at InCytu Inc. He has also served as Director of Manufacturing and Process Development for a variety of biotechnology companies focusing on a wide range of products, including cell-derived human skin equivalents, iontophorectic drug delivery, surgical sealants, and biohybrid artificial organs. His research interests and prior experience include: tissue engineering and drug delivery, cell culture, degradable polymeric devices, and project management. Doherty received his B.S. in Biological-Chemical Technology and his M.S. in Regulatory Affairs for Drugs, Biologics, and Medical Devices from Northeastern University. Contact:


Zivthan Dubrovsky

Zivthan Dubrovsky, M.S., Bioinspired Robotics Platform Lead

Dubrovsky has an extensive product development background across many industries. His work has translated products from ideation and invention through manufacturing, sales, and marketing. Prior to joining the Wyss, he led a product creation team for Sonos to commercialize a mesh network speaker able to be controlled wirelessly from any smartphone. He also served as Program Manager and Product Marketing Manager at iRobot Corporation, where he managed the development and transfer of iRobot’s leading technologies into saleable consumer robots. His interests and prior experience include: robotic lawn mowing, robotic vacuuming, robotic telepresence, human-robot interaction, user experience, industrial design, smartphone accessories, market strategy, and high volume production. Dubrovsky received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and his M.S. in Management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Contact:


Samuel A. Inverso

Samuel A. Inverso, M.S., Ph.D., Staff Software Engineer

Inverso's research interweaves computer science and biology -- he applies computational techniques to biological problems and replicates nature's solutions in the digital space. Prior to joining the Wyss, Sam worked on the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's Disease, produced a simple method to pin-point specific brain area activity from EEG, and developed image analysis algorithms for large biological data sets. He was a software engineer at an internet startup, Kaloke Technologies, Inc., which produced online banking software, and he developed brain-computer interfaces and muscle control interfaces for mobile devices with eye-glass displays at the MIT Media Lab, Europe. Sam received his B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science at the Rochester Insitute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the Australian National University, followed by postdoctoral work at the Pasteur Institute.


Mustafa Karabas

Mustafa Karabas, M.S., Staff Mechanical Engineer

Karabas' career has focused on R&D, mechanism design, rapid prototyping, FEA, and manufacturing. He started his career at Mistras Group, Inc., where he designed multi-axis custom robotic gantry systems and portable automation products for non-destructive testing in the aerospace, medical devices, metal manufacturing, and oil and gas industries. Prior to joining the Wyss Institute, he worked at Stanley Black and Decker as a design engineer in the DIY Fastening R&D group, where he designed new-to-world consumer products and filed many provisional patents for his designs, including electro-mechanical and pneumatic rebar tiers. Mustafa received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Ege University and his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Science from University of Pennsylvania. Contact:


Mughees Khan

Mughees Khan, M.S., Ph.D., Staff Scientist, Nanofabrication

Khan is an R&D/semiconductor process engineer with interests in novel micro and nanofabrication methods and techniques. He has experience in design, fabrication and characterization of nano and microscale devices and structures in IV, III-V, oxides and metals for applications across different disciplines. Khan is affiliated with the Programmable Nanomaterials and Adaptive Material Technologies platforms and is currently working on material systems for energy related applications. His past experiences include work on smart materials along with industry experience in energy/oil & gas and environment sectors and providing consulting services. Khan has an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Texas A&M University. He did his postdoctoral work at Harvard University focusing on nano-optical structures for potential biosensing, novel single photon devices, nanocavity lasers and optomechanics applications.


Jim Niemi

James Niemi, M.S., Lead Senior Staff Engineer, Device Integration and Manufacturability

Niemi has almost 20 years of medical device research and development experience. Prior to joining the Wyss, he worked on implantable glucose sensors for Nova Biomedical. He has also served as Vice President of Research at Afferent Corporation, a start-up venture working to commercialize the stochastic resonance neuro-stimulation technology developed by Prof. James Collins at Boston University. His research interests and prior experience include: neuromuscular stimulation and control, medical imaging, implantable smart sensors and materials, as well as bioreactor and automation design. Niemi received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Boston University and his M.S. in BioEngineering from Brown University. Contact:


Richard Novak

Richard Novak, Ph.D., Staff Engineer, Microfabrication

Novak's research interests involve development of microfluidic devices for organ-on-chip culture and drug screening. He received his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley/UC San Francisco where he investigated single cell transcriptional dynamics, early lymphoma mutation detection, and single cell culture using microfluidic droplet generators and integrated on-chip micropumps. He also developed a rapid prototyping workflow for hot embossing microfluidic chips that allows for fast testing of new designs in commercially-relevant materials. Richard is the founder of Future Scientist, a nonprofit that creates sustainable solutions through community empowerment with science and engineering education. Contact:


Kathleen O'Donnell, M.I.D.

Kathleen O'Donnell, M.I.D.

O’Donnell’s work focuses on bringing principles of human factors and user research into all stages of the development process for medical devices. Prior to joining the Wyss Institute, she previously worked as a Field Support Engineer for Integra Neurosciences, where she observed first-hand some of the real-world challenges encountered in the operating room or ICU. From there she went on to receive her Masters degree in Industrial Design, where she conducted extensive user research in the fields of orthotics and prosthetics to design new technological solutions within the industry. Kathleen received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and a B.S. in Science in Human Cultures from Northwestern University, and an M.I.D in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Contact:


John Osborne

John Osborne, M.S., Senior Staff Engineer, Software

Osborne's interests focus on the development and implementation of computer software and databases as an integrated part of automated data acquisition and control systems. Prior to joining the Wyss, John implemented large-scale software systems for acquiring data, monitoring, and improving processes in the areas of healthcare, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His software has been deployed in hospitals, manufacturing plants, research institutions, oil platforms, and cruise ships. John received his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering at Tufts University and was a key software developer on such applications as the ROBOLAB educational product and the IMATIS medical product suite. Contact:


Rachelle Prantil-Baun

Rachelle Prantil-Baun, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist

Prantil-Baun's research interests focus on integrating cell biology with engineering in order to enhance our understanding of cellular mechanisms in disease, as well as improving drug efficacy and safety. She has 7 years of experience in the development of cell models and assays for target validation and improved platforms for drug discovery in both industry and academic settings. Her career has focused mainly on the development of better cell models for diabetes and obesity and airway inflammation. Rachelle received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Syracuse University and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Contact:


Hani Sallum

Hani Sallum, M.S., Electromechanical Engineer

Sallum's professional interests and expertise include automation systems and cross-discipline electromechanical design. Prior to joining the Wyss Institute he worked in the custom automation and defense R&D industries. He has been involved in projects from a wide range of fields including energy harvesting, specialized climbing equipment, packaging lines, biotech lab automation, and autonomous robot navigation. He earned his BSME from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his MSME from Boston University.



Sasha Stafford

Sasha Stafford, Staff Scientist, Analytical Development

Stafford brings to the Wyss over 10 years industrial experience in pharmaceutical development with extensive expertise in analytical development and product characterization. Prior to joining the Wyss, Stafford conducted and managed assay development, method validation, regulatory affairs, and quality control activities for a series of biotech and pharmaceutical companies advancing a wide range of therapeutic products through clinical trials to FDA approval. His research interests include: biomaterial engineering, nanobiotechnology, drug delivery, analytical development, method validation, and synthetic chemistry. Stafford received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California at Santa Cruz.


Mike Super

Michael Super, M.Sc., Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist

Super’s research leverages protein engineering to design therapeutics and diagnostic devices to treat cancer, infectious & immunological diseases. Prior to joining the Wyss, Super spent 17 years in the Biotechnology industry, employed in companies ranging from start-ups to large Pharma. In industry, Super was the Director of the Protein Biochemistry, Immunobiology and Hybridoma Antibody groups, focusing on the design, development and production of therapeutic antibodies for cancer and autoimmune disease therapy. Super received his M.Sc. in Biomolecular Organization at Birkbeck College and his Ph.D. in Medical Immunology at the Institute of Child Health, University of London, followed by postdoctoral work at Harvard in Hematology/Oncology and Infectious disease.


Richard C. Terry

Richard C. Terry, M.S., Lead Senior Staff Scientist

Terry's research interests include applying systems-level engineering to biological problems. As a senior staff engineer at the Wyss, he is supporting efforts in DNA synthesis, DNA assembly, and DNA sequencing. Before coming to the Wyss, he designed, developed, and produced a cost-effective, high throughput, open source DNA sequencer, "The Polonator." Previously, he was the Senior Project Manager for the alignment subsystem of (CMS) Compact Muon Solenoid, the particle detector at (CERN) The Center of European Nuclear Research, in Geneva Switzerland. He also has served as a consultant for companies ranging from medical device startups to large manufacturing firms. Terry, who received his B.S. and M.S. from Boston University, has patent applications in multiple disciplines.


Brian Turczyk

Brian Turczyk, Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Turczyk's research interests include the evolution of gene engineering and sequencing platforms and their application to synthetic biology. He is currently focusing on the development of next-generation DNA synthesis, assembly, and sequencing technologies. Before joining the Wyss, Turczyk worked as a Senior Scientist at Modular Genetics, Inc., where he developed high-throughput platforms for protein and metabolic strain engineering. He is the author of two patents related to nucleic acid manipulation and synthetic biology. Turczyk received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of New Hampshire and his Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics from Boston University School of Medicine.


Oktay Uzun

Oktay Uzun, Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Oktay's research interests and expertise are in synthesis and characterization of well-defined polymer structures and architectures to investigate their supramolecular organization and self-assembly behavior. Before joining the Wyss, he worked for Dow Chemical, where he focused on developing novel electrolyte formulations for Li-ion Battery applications and energy storage materials. He received his Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he worked on using non-covalent interactions and polymer side chain modification strategy to build higher order structures between nanoparticles and polymers. He then did post-doctoral work at MIT in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, where he developed innovative synthetic routes for highly water soluble phase separated ligand containing nanoparticles and evaluated their biological applications as drug delivery vehicles and imaging agents. Contact:


Ayush Verma

Ayush Verma, Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Verma's interest and experience spans across oral delivery, vaccine delivery and ocular delivery of small molecules, proteins and nucleic acids using novel nanomaterials. Prior to joining Wyss, he led the scientific effort at Entrega Inc., for oral delivery of biologics using mucoadhesive patches. He also worked at Liquidia Technologies (and subsequently at Envisia Therapeutics), leveraging a proprietary platform for delivery of small molecules therapeutics via biodegradable polymer implants to the eye for various indications. Prior to Liquidia, Ayush led the formulation effort at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics for delivery of novel self-replicating RNA vaccines. He did his postdoc at MIT in the Materials Science and Engineering department where his research led to the first observation of how ligand arrangement on synthetic nanoparticles impact their ability to penetrate cell membranes, a critical aspect of drug delivery. He received his Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts at Amherst and BSc. from St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, India.


Frederic Vigneault

Frederic Vigneault, M.Sc., Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Vigneault's current research interests include the development of DNA synthesis, assembly and sequencing technologies. Before joining the Wyss, he worked on systems-wide signaling models using rewrite logic tools at SRI International, and prior to SRI he worked on enabling high-throughput absolute quantification using PCR at Natural Resources Canada. Vigneault received a B.Sc in Biology at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, an M.Sc. in Cell Biology from Concordia University, and a Ph.D. in Plant Molecular Biology at Université Laval.



Alex Watters

Alex Watters, Ph.D., Staff Scientist

Watters' research has focused on biological engineering at both the protein and cellular levels and has included stints in both academic and industry settings. Prior to joining the Wyss staff, he worked in industry developing non-antibody scaffolds for early stage drug discovery. His academic work has included using cell engineering to study actin-based cell motility as well as exploring the evolutionary pressures on protein structure. He holds a Ph.D in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Washington and a B.A. in Biology from Carleton College. Contact:



Jeffrey Way, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Way, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist

Way's current research interests are in therapeutic protein development and bioenergy. As a senior staff scientist at the Wyss, he is also supporting faculty-driven efforts in DNA synthesis and DNA assembly. Before coming to the Wyss, he was Director of Structural Biology and Director of Intellectual Property at EMD Serono, a major protein-focused pharmaceutical company, where he designed protein drugs. Previously, he was a Director of Intellectual Property and Director of Communications there. He has published numerous articles on drug development, synthetic biology, nervous system development, and bacterial genetics, and holds several patent applications and issued patents. He received his Ph.D. and B.A from Harvard University. Contact:



We've won a Webby Award!

Wyss Institute is proud to announce our win in the 2012
Webby Awards in the Science category.