The Team

Current group members and Lab Alumni

Dr. Cătălin Voiniciuc – Associate Professor Horticultural Sciences Department, UF

🔊 (kuh-tuh-leen voi-NEE-chook)

Education: Ph.D., (RWTH Aachen University, Germany), M.Sc. and B.Sc. (UBC, Vancouver, Canada)

About me: My research in Vancouver (Canada)Jülich (Germany) and Versailles (France) identified novel cell wall genes using Arabidopsis seed mucilage mutants. After moving to Düsseldorf in May 2016, I applied yeast Synthetic Biology (SynBio) to reconstruct plant polysaccharides. From January 2019 to February 2022, I led an independent research group at IPB Halle to gain further mechanistic insight into the synthesis of matrix polysaccharides. In March 2022, I joined the University of Florida to lead its Plant SynBio efforts and further the Designer Glycans mission.

Outside the lab: exploring Florida and sports

Talia Jacobson – Ph.D. Student (Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology program)

Education: B.Sc. in Genetics (Purdue University)

About me: My B.Sc. degree involved work in a Drosophila developmental genetics lab followed by soybean breeding experience, where I became interested in plant molecular biology and how data science can be utilized to solve biological problems. This inspired me to pursue an opportunity with Bayer Crop Science where I developed machine learning models that analyzed corn genomic and environmental data to predict yield. This solidified my research interests in genetics and functional genomics, biotechnology, and computational biology. As a Ph.D. student, I hope to combine the skills gained during my undergraduate research to tackle questions revolved around polysaccharides in the cell wall. 

Outside the Lab: violinist, runner/swimmer

R. Logan Spicer – Ph.D. Student (Horticultural Sciences)

Education: B.Sc. Biological Sciences (Rowan University), M.Sc. (University of Minnesota)

About me: During my B.Sc. I began researching the tropical urban rainforests of Puerto Rico through summer internships with the U.S. Forestry Service then transitioned to more lab-based research studying phytoplankton in local reservoirs to help predict harmful algal blooms. For my M.Sc. I transitioned into plant breeding and genetics focusing on molecular genetics. By happenstance I began researching novel gene editing techniques in fruit crops (apples & grapes). This project was pivotal in guiding my research interest into molecular biology, biotechnology, and practical research. From my past experiences I noticed the beneficial potential of plants and began to appreciate their role in our world. I am confident as a Ph.D. student I will develop the skills needed to participate in creating and designing new plant products for various fields with endless real-world applications.

Yunhan Wang – Ph.D. Student (Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology program)

Education: B.Sc. in Forest Science (University of British Columbia, 2020-2023); Bachelor of Agriculture in Forestry (Nanjing Forestry University, 2017-2020) 

About me: In my bachelor study, I firstly joined the labs to study the nutrient compounds in Xanthoceras sorbifolium, and then with the training with lab courses like Forest Genetics Breeding, and Plant Physiology, I got clearer about my research interest in molecular biology. Then I joined different research projects including the study of genes controlling Sclerotinia sclerotiorum sclerotia formation and study of salicylic acid (SA) production in EMS Nicotiana Benthamiana, where I get attracted by genetics and molecular research in plants and microorganisms. All the research experiences inspired me to purse the Ph.D. program. As a Ph.D. student, I hope to take advantage of my bachelor education and gain more knowledge to find de novo research directions and a clever way to solve the problems to get the answers.  

Outside the Lab: watching concerts, detective novels 

Lianna Larson – Biofoundry Biological Assistant

About me: I am a second year Biological Engineering major with a specialization in Biosystems at the University of Florida. I have a strong interest in the innovation and continued research of biofuels to create a more sustainable and renewable source of energy. I have experience with both the coding language Python as well as lab experience where I volunteered in the Designer Glycans lab working on a novel mutant peel-1 of the Arabidopsis thaliana

Kathryn DeLuca – Undergraduate Research Intern

About Me: I am a third year Gator studying Biological Engineering with a specialization in Biosystems. I am passionate about the application of polymer research within the pharmaceutical sector, specifically the properties and biomedical potential of pectin. With three years of undergraduate-level lab experience, CAD modeling, and coding practice (Python and MATLAB), I am thrilled to be a part of the Designer Glycans team!

Ryan Cantrell – Undergraduate Research Intern

About me: I am a first-year microbiology and statistics major at the University of Florida. As a high school senior, I did work with Drosophila doing insulin regulation research. While I very much enjoyed it, and appreciate the skills it has provided me, I wanted to try something different, to help familiarize me with the breadth of research. To this end, I joined Dr. Voiniciuc’s lab with the hopes of developing my molecular biology and yeast genetic engineering skills.

Outside the lab: Exploring the outdoors and a playing guitar.

Mair Edwards – Ph.D. Student (Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology program)

Education: B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Cell and Molecular biology (Eastern Michigan University)

About me: My research at Eastern Michigan University, which I did over 3 years as an undergraduate and graduate student, consisted of constructing, purifying and running biochemical assays on recombinant photorespiratory aminotransferases. This research is a part of a collaborative study to understand the effects of temperature on kinetics of photorespiratory enzymes. It was this research that consolidated my interest in molecular biology and plants. As a PhD student I am particularly excited to work in labs using synthetic biology with a goal of crop improvement and expand my knowledge of molecular biology in plants.

Want to design glycans with us?

If you are interested in plant synthetic biology or plant cell walls and want to be part of our scientific success stories, please contact Dr. Voiniciuc about current opportunities in Gainesville, Florida. For full consideration, your email to cvoiniciuc [at] should detail your motivation, prior experience and CV.