Current Members

Admin | PostDocs | Grad Students

Nan Holda

600 S. Mathews Ave
161 Roger Adams Laboratory, Box 49-5, MC-712
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: 217-244-5450
Email: holda[at]



Ian Bothwell

  • B.S. 2007: Southwestern University
  • Ph.D. 2015: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • bothwell[at]
  • Ian grew up in Texas, he went to Southwestern University for chemistry degree. Afterwards, he received his Ph.D from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, under the guidance of Prof. Minkui Luo. Ian’s work in the van der Donk lab has focused on understanding the mechanism of LanB dehydratases, and he also works on genome mining effort of novel lanthipeptides.

David Krist

  • B.A. 2008: Grinnell College
  • Ph.D. 2016: Northwestern University
  • dkrist[at]
  • David studied under the direction of Alexander Statsyuk at Northwestern where he designed chemical crosslinkers and assay reagents to identify potential small molecule therapeutics targeting the ubiquitin proteasome system. The wonder of ubiquitin signaling led David to the lab of Brenda Schulman at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and then Max Planck Biochemistry, where he developed molecular tools to stabilize enzyme transition states in order to visualize them with cryo-electron microscopy. In the van der Donk lab, David investigates enzyme mechanistic aspects of phosphonate biosynthesis via protein chemistry, structural biology, enzyme kinetics and bioinformatics.

Chi Pan Ting

  • B.S. 2012: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Ph.D. 2017: University of California, Berkeley
  • chiting1[at]
  • Chi received a B.S. degree in chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he worked under the direction of Prof. Steven Zimmerman. In 2012, he began his Ph.D. studies at the University of California, Berkeley in the Maimone group. During this time, he developed concise total syntheses of aryltetralin lignan and complex meroterpene natural products. In 2017, he returned to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign as a postdoctoral researcher in the van der Donk group studying the biosynthesis of lanthipeptides.

Daisuke Fujinami

  • B.S. 2011: Kyushu University, Japan
  • M.S. 2013: Kyushu University, Japan
  • Ph.D. 2017: Kyushu University, Japan
  • fujinami[at]
  • Daisuke was born in Yamaguchi, Japan. He received his Ph.D. from Kyushu University under the guidance of Prof. Daisuke Kohda. At Kyushu University, he worked on the structural biology of archaeal protein glycosylation using NMR approaches. In the van der Donk lab, he is currently working on the functional characterization of nukacin ISK-1 as a bacterial pheromone and the structural study of cysteine glycosyltransferase. Daisuke’s hobbies are watching sports and reading manga.

Shi Liu

  • B.S. 2009: Nankai University
  • M.S. 2012: Penn State University
  • Ph.D. 2019: University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • shiliu[at]
  • Shi was born in Chaohu, China. He received a B.S. degree in chemistry from Nankai University. Shi then came to the U.S. to pursue a PhD degree in chemistry, initially at The Penn State University. Due to a shift in research interest, Shi transferred to UW-Madison to restart his PhD research under the supervision of Prof. Samuel Gellman. His PhD work focused on designing unnatural peptidic ligands to modulate signaling selectivity and dynamics of parathyroid hormone receptor. As a postdoc under the supervision of Prof. Wilfred van der Donk, Shi is currently working on LanCL proteins to decipher their cellular functions in mammalian systems.

Richard S. Ayikpoe

  • B.S. 2012: University of Ghana
  • Ph.D.: 2019, University of Denver
  • rayikpoe[at]
  • Richard received a B.S. degree in biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology from the University of Ghana. Afterwards, he worked as senior technical officer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-Ghana) for 3 years before going to grad school. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Denver under the guidance of Prof. John A. Latham, where he investigated the biosynthesis, structure, and function of mycofactocin—a RiPP-derived redox cofactor that was discovered in the last 20 years. In the van der Donk lab, Richard investigates the biosynthesis of novel RiPP natural products from Phomopsis leptostromiformis and Lachnospiraceae bacterium.

Class of 2013

Silvia Bobeica

  • B.A. 2013: Colgate University
  • bobeica2[at]
  • Silvia was born in Romania and was a fan of chemistry and mathematics in high school. As an undergrad, she went to Colgate University, where she worked on the synthesis of possibly bioactive carbon linked glycopeptide mimetics under the guidance of Prof. Ernest Nolen. Silvia is working on lantibiotics in the van der Donk lab and celebrated joining the group by running a marathon. Silvia’s hobbies include figure skating, watching gymnastics, and long distance running.
Class of 2014

Subhanip Biswas

  • B.S. 2012: Presidency College (Now known as Presidency University), University of Calcutta
  • M.S. 2014: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur
  • biswas6[at]
  • Subhanip received his Bachelor’s Degree from Presidency College, Kolkata and was awarded the gold medal by the University of Calcutta for academic excellence in Chemistry. During this time, he also received the KVPY Fellowship and worked at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics under the supervision of Professor Samita Basu during the summer of 2012, where he investigated the photophysical properties of Napthalic Anhydride. After completing his Bachelor’s in 2012, Subhanip pursued his Master’s Degree in the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and worked on a project in the lab of Professor Amit Basak to develop new greener protocols for the Garratt-Braverman cyclization. Subhanip joined UIUC in the Fall of 2014, where his research in the van der Donk group is focused on figuring out the mode of action of the S-linked Glycocin Sublancin.
 Class of 2015

Martin McLaughlin

  • B.S. 2015, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • mimclau2[at]
  • Martin grew up in State College, PA. He received a B. S. in Chemistry from MIT in 2015, where he worked in the laboratory of Prof. Cathy Drennan, structurally characterizing the [4Fe-4S] cluster destruction catalyzed by lipoyl synthase. In December 2015, he joined the van der Donk lab to study phosphonate biosynthesis.
 Class of 2016

Imran Rahman

  • B.S. 2015, University of California, San Diego
  • irahman2[at]
  • Imran grew up in San Jose, California and received a degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology in 2015 from UC San Diego, where he worked under Prof. Bradley Moore in the isolation, biosynthesis, and ecology of brominated marine natural products. Imran’s current research interests lie in determining the mechanistic enzymology behind a class II lantipeptide synthetase substrate recognition and channeling. In addition, he is also exploring unusual modifications occurring in a fungal RiPP pathway.

Page Daniels

  • B.S. 2016, DePauw University, Greencastle, IN
  • pnd2[at]
  • Page grew up in a small farming community in rural Indiana. After receiving a full tuition academic scholarship, she attended DePauw University where she pursued and graduated with a degree in Biochemistry and minor in Biology. While at DePauw University, she performed research under Dr. Daniel Scott, working to synthetically modify the antibiotic compound mithramycin to functionalize its DNA binding properties and enhance its anticancer profile. Upon graduation, she moved to Urbana-Champaign to pursue a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Illinois. She joined Dr. Wilfred van der Donk’s lab in 2017 and is studying sLanB’s.

Max Simon

  • B.S. 2015, University at Buffalo, SUNY
  • msimon10[at]
  • Max grew up in Oceanside, NY. He received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University at Buffalo, SUNY in 2016. As an undergrad he worked in the laboratory of Prof. Blaine Pfeifer on erythromycin production and optimization in a heterologous host system, as well as producing erythromycin analogues. After graduation he moved to Illinois to pursue a Ph.D. in the van der Donk group as a bioengineer. He is currently working on elucidating the fosfomycin pathway in Pseudomonas.
 Class of 2017

Chunyu “Layla” Wu

  • B.S. 2017, Purdue University
  • chunyuw2[at]
  • Layla grew up in Shanghai, China and received a BS in Chemistry and Biological Sciences from Purdue University, where she worked under Prof. Knipp, studying molecular and functional characterization of oligopeptide transporters in human blood brain barrier cells. Currently, she is working on understanding the mode of action of sublancin 168 and epilancin 15x.

Tung Thanh Le

  • B.S. 2017, Texas Christian University
  • tungl2[at]
  • Born and raised in Hanoi, Vietnam. Tung received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Texas Christian University in 2017. H worked with Professor Eric E. Simanek to synthesize a library of triazine derivatives with sertraline to look for antibacterial activity. He also did some computational chemistry with Professor Benjamin Janesko to investigate mechanism of whiskey lactone formation. Currently, he works on the Yeast Surface Display project.


Class of 2018

Emily Desormeaux

  • B.S. 2017, Texas A&M University
  • emilykd2[at]
  • Emily grew up in Bryan, Texas. She received her B.S in Chemistry from Texas A&M University, where she performed kinetic studies on phosphotriesterase under the guidance of Prof. Frank Raushel. In 2018, Emily joined the van der Donk lab to study the mechanism of ProcM and its engineering potentials.

Sara Eslami

  • B.A. 2017, Wellesley College
  • seslami2[at]
  • Sara grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin and received her BA in Biochemistry at Wellesley College in Boston. While in Boston, her research ranged from synthesizing an inverse agonist of GLP-1R to exploring the interactions between commensals and pathobionts in the nasal microbiota. Her research in the van der Donk lab focuses on genome mining for RiPPs in gram-negative bacteria as well as studying small LanB’s.

Haoqian “Lainey” Liang

  • B.S. 2017, Zhengzhou University, China
  • haoqian2[at]
  • Lainey grew up in Shenzhen, China and majored in Pharmacy at Zhengzhou University, where she studied organic synthesis under Prof. Chunli Wu. She finished her bachelor’s thesis on cancer biology at Baylor College of Medicine under the supervision of Prof. Jianhua Yang. After receiving her degree, she studied immunology at Tongji University. Lainey joined the van der Donk lab to explore phage display.

Dinh Nguyen

  • B.S. 2018, University of Tokyo
  • dinhtn2[at]
  • Dinh was born and raised in Hanoi, Vietnam. He received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from The University of Tokyo in 2018. His bachelor thesis work was carried out under the supervision of Professor Hiroaki Suga and Associate Professor Yuki Goto. Here he put his effort in the genomic discovery and characterization of novel prenyltransferases modifying RiPPs. Currently, Dinh is being co-advised by Prof. van der Donk and Prof. Mitchell, working on enzymatic modification facilitating peptides with exotic structures.

Raymond Sarksian

  • B.S. 2017, UC San Diego
  • raymond9[at]
  • Raymond was born in Uppsala, Sweden and raised in Los Angeles, California. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from UC San Diego and worked under the direction of Professor Charles Perrin, studying the effects of steric hindrance to ionic solvation of cyclohexanol derivatives. He moved across country and joined the van der Donk lab in the Fall of 2018 to study mechanistic aspects of ProcM.
Class of 2019

Autumn Frerk

  • B.S. 2019: Purdue University
  • frerk2[at]
  • Autumn grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She received her B.S. in chemistry from Purdue University, where she worked in Professor Betsy Parkinson’s lab studying cyclic non-ribosomal peptides to discover bioactive natural products. In 2019, she joined the van der Donk lab to work on genome mining for RiPPs.

Yue Yu

  • B.S. 2019: Nanjing University
  • yuey15[at]
  • Yue was born in Suzhou, China, and received his B.S. degree in chemistry from Nanjing University. He started off studying photoluminescence spectroscopy and later went on to develop the asymmetric functionalization of protein-containing dehydroalanine. In the van der Donk lab, he is investigating novel lantibiotics and the functions of short LanBs.

Tianhui “Hina” Zhou

  • B.S. 2016: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • M.S. 2018: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  • tzhou12[at]
  • Hina grew up in Shenzhen, China. She received her B.S. in integrative biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where she worked for Dr. Eric Oldfield developing anti-microbial and anti-cancer agents. Her M.S. is in microbiology and immunology from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she worked with Dr. Mary O’Riordan studying Listeria monocytogenes metabolism. She currently works on understanding the function of LanCL. Ask about her cat, Spike.

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