The Team

Designer Glycans research team members photo from April 2024

Meet the current research team members of the Voiniciuc lab at the University of Florida and Lab Alumni since 2019.

Dr. Cătălin Voiniciuc – Associate Professor (Horticultural Sciences Department; Plant Molecular & Cellular Biology (PMCB) Graduate Program; UF Genetics Institute; AI² Center)

🔊 (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

Dr. Cătălin Voiniciuc - Associate Professor

Hemicellulose Bioengineering

Research Team Members

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

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.

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

Mair Edwards – Ph.D. Student (PMCB rotation, 2023.09-2023.11; co-supervised with Hanson Lab since 2024.01)

🔊 (my-ER)

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.

Kathryn DeLuca – Undergraduate Research Scholar

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!

Kathryn DeLuca - Undergraduate Research Intern
Hannah Zheng - Undergraduate Research Intern

Hannah Zheng – Undergraduate Research Intern

About Me: As a rising second-year Biology major at the University of Florida, I am passionate for genetic innovations and their applications for sustainability. Joining the Designer Glycans team for my first lab experience is an exhilarating opportunity to delve into the intricate world of genetic design and its implications.

BOTany Research Team Members

A subgroup in the lab is dedicated to developing an entry-level Biofoundry in the Horticultural Sciences department at UF. This robot-driven infrastructure will accelerate biological discovery.

Dr. Moni Qiande – Biofoundry Postdoctoral Scientist

Education: Ph.D. in Agronomy (University of Florida) and B.Sc. (China Agricultural University)

About me: My research focused on optimizing the metabolic engineering of sugarcane (Saccharum ssp. hybrids) for higher oil content in its vegetative tissues, with a subsequent focus on testing and evaluating the inducible transgene expression system that can speed up the oilcane molecular breeding process. Prior to that, I did my Bachelor in the major of grassland and forage science at the China Agricultural University, with a focus on optimizing silage methods and reduce the content of tannins of paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera L.). At the beginning of 2024, I joined the Designer-Glycan team to lead high-throughput experimentation and programming of liquid-handling platforms, with an aim to speed up the design-build-test-learn cycles for the plant cell wall engineering.

Outside the Lab: having fun with my dogs (one lab-dalmatian and one schnauzer)

Dr. Moni Qiande – Biofoundry Postdoctoral Scientist
Lianna Larson – Biofoundry Biological Assistant

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

Abigail B. Lin – Biofoundry Programming Assistant

About me: I am a Computer Science major with a Math minor in my second year at the University of Florida. I am interested in the role that computational biology can play in enhancing and speeding up the rate of biological research. In order to pursue this interest, I have joined the Designer Glycans lab to help automate liquid pipetting with Opentrons OT-2 robots. I have experience with various programming languages, including Python, which I am currently to modify the Opentrons protocols.

Abigail B. Lin – Biofoundry Programming Assistant

Want to design glycans and/or program plant cells with us?

The Designer Glycans research team is welcomes new members who are highly motivated to lead innovations in plant synthetic biology (SynBio) or plant cell wall bioengineering. If you have the educational background, technical experience and grit required to be part of our scientific success stories, please email Dr. Voiniciuc to explain which area of our lab’s research interests you the most and how you wish to contribute. For full consideration, your email to cvoiniciuc [at] ufl.edu should detail your motivation, prior experience and CV.

For an overview of former research team members, visit Lab Alumni, and their next positions in academia and industry.