Team Members

Ameer Basta

Biochemistry (Year 4)

Ameer is a fourth year biochemistry major. His research, prior to iGEM, is on the biological functions of aptamer, or short stranded oligonucleotides that have high specificity and high affinity for biological molecules. He plans to take a gap year before pursuing a PhD in biochemistry at an R1 university. On the rare occasion that Ameer is not doing research, he enjoys flying planes and exercising.

Jordy Botello

Chemistry (Year 4)

Jordy is a senior undergraduate student aspiring to become a physician-scientist to research how the principles of pharmacology can be used to target cancer. His current research is about a chronic stress-cancer link. Specifically, he researches how neurotransmitters of the sympathetic nervous system modulate calcium signaling to ultimately confer multi-drug resistance and survival in cancer models.

Nicole Kantor

Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience (Year 3)

Nicole is a third year Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Aside from iGEM, she is currently involved in research focused on Parkinson’s Disease treatment using deep brain stimulation. She plans to go to Medical School, become a doctor, and continue in research in Neurobiology. Outside of the lab, Nicole enjoys playing intramural football and basketball as well as playing the violin and doing yoga.

Pedro Corral

Chemistry (Year 4)

Pedro Corral is a 4th year Biochemistry major. He is currently on the pre-med track with the hopes of eventually becoming an MD/PhD. He is interested and currently involved in medicinal chemistry research, mainly focusing on the synthesis and modification of organic compounds that are found in nature and have shown potential in preventing diseases such as lung cancer.

Abeer Dagra

Biology (Year 4)

Abeer Dagra is a senior majoring in Biology at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with aims to pursue MD/PhD in the future. Her current research is focused on the contribution of bacteria in protecting and/or exacerbating the development of colitis and colorectal cancer. She is interested in studying bacteria-host interactions and the innate/immunological responses of diseases. The major clinical consequence of deregulated bacteria-host interaction in the intestine is the development of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and colorectal cancer (CRC). Her interest in iGEM stems from her vision that engineering bacteria to illicit a beneficial response can open doors for treatments of various diseases.

Rachel Levy

Biology, Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience (Year 3)

Rachel is a third year student double-majoring in biology and behavioral & cognitive neuroscience and minoring in Spanish. Outside of iGEM, her research is focused on developing a mouse model of Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes intellectual disability and other symptoms. Rachel hopes to take her love of research and medicine and pursue a career as a physician-scientist. In her free time, she enjoys photography and anything active like swimming, hiking, or kayaking.

Garett Miller

Finance (Year 4)

Garett is a fourth year Finance major who hopes to work in healthcare. Apart from iGEM, he volunteers with the Equal Access Clinic Network, which provides free healthcare services to the uninsured and underserved Gainesville community. He is also studying the interactions between the bacteria responsible for the pathogen Cholera, Vibrio Cholerae, and the Chironomid Midge.

Shelby Neal

Microbiology, Neuroscience (Year 3)

Shelby is a third year undergraduate student majoring in Microbiology and Neurobiological sciences. She is hoping to obtain a masters in genetics and then pursue a career related to genetic counseling, personalized medicine, or pharmaceuticals. In her research outside of iGEM, she is working to characterize the development of the CA1 region of the hippocampus in postnatal rats as they age. This will provide a basis for further research involving learning and memory related to this neuronal region. Outside of the lab, Shelby enjoys rock climbing, going to coffee shops, and gardening.

William Owens

Biology, Computer Science (Year 3)

Will is a third year undergraduate double-majoring in Computer Science and Microbiology. His primary interests are genetic engineering, synthetic biology, and artificial life. He intends to pursue a PhD in genetics. Will is fascinated by the crossovers between computer science and molecular biology. The influential Object-Oriented Paradigm, inspired by the cell, allows programmers to construct elegant and scalable software. By thinking of the cell as an information processor, we can construct genetic circuits and engineer a new generation of technology.

Karthek Ramchander

Biology, Health Disparities in Society (Year 4)

Karthek is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. In May of 2018, he obtained his bachelor’s in Biology and a Health Disparities in Society minor. He aims to be a physician who practices in a medically underserved area (MUA). In his research group, he designs and enacts intervention programs across Gainesville and Jacksonville that improve overall health outcomes in MUAs. He also volunteers at the Equal Access Clinic, which is part of a network of clinics that provide medical services to the uninsured and underinsured. Additionally, he volunteers at Child Life, a volunteering program at UF Shands Hospital that provides solace to children from birth to their adolescent years. In his free time, he likes to play the piano, perform close-up magic tricks, and play chess.

Nikila Ojili

Microbiology (Year 3)

Nikila is a third year undergraduate student aspiring to obtain a PhD. She is extremely interested in research and the potential it has for the future. Prior to iGEM, she worked on understanding the functionality of the YoaA protein which is hypothesized to be a DNA helicase called upon for DNA repair. She thinks iGEM is a wonderful learning experience and wants to be a part of it again next year. Aside from spending time in the lab, she enjoys travelling and painting.

Anna Skrobach

Business Administration (Year 2)

Anna is a second year undergraduate student studying Business Administration on the pre-med track. She hopes to obtain her joint M.D/ MBA and go on to become an anesthesiologist. Besides iGEM, Anna is currently researching in the Dore lab under Dr. Lei Liu, examining the effects of Ginseng pre-treatment on stroke. In her spare time, Anna is either assistant-coaching Special Olympics at Balance 180, going to the gym, or studying.

Sharez Sohail

Environmental Engineering (Year 4)

Sharez is a fourth year undergraduate student studying environmental engineering. He plans to continue his education by obtaining a Masters Degree and Ph.D. in environmental engineering, with a focus on sustainable materials and resource conservation. His current research involves adding coal fly ash and bottom ash from waste-to-energy facilities as an aggregate to concrete for land reuse application. His goal is to create a closed, zero-waste society using genetic engineering. Outside iGEM, Sharez enjoys listening to an immense amount of music and practicing yoga.

Merin Thomas

Biochemistry, Molecular Biology (Year 4)

Merin is a fourth year student studying Molecular Biology and Biochemistry with a minor in Health Disparities in Society. Her research outside of iGEM is focused on investigating the regulatory effects of long non-coding RNAs within human interleukin cells with Dr. Rolf Renne at the University of Florida. With her passion for medicine and research, Merin hopes to pursue a career as a physician-scientist. When she is not in the lab, she loves trying out new local restaurants or baking tasty treats herself!

Madeline Steck

Microbiology (Year 4)

Madeline is a combined-degree student currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Masters degree in Environmental and Global Health. She enjoys learning about pathogens and streaking bacteria. She doesn't like sitting still and can be found working in lab, doing yoga, biking, or baking for her roommates. This is her second year participating in the competition and has enjoyed preparing the team for the craziness that is iGEM!

Max van Belkum

Microbiology, Nutrition Science (Year 4)

Max van Belkum aspires to be a physician-scientist to research and treat metabolic, digestive, and autoimmune diseases. Max volunteers with Streetlight at UF Health Shands Hospital, where he spends time with chronically ill adolescents and young adults. He is also an independent contractor with Aces in Motion, a non-profit organization that teaches tennis and character development to underprivileged youth in Gainesville. Finally, he is very involved in the UF American Physician Scientists Association, in which he served as president for the previous academic year. In his free time, Max enjoys tennis, coffee, philosophical discussion, and Super Smash Brothers.

Diego Gamoneda

Biology (Year 3)

Diego Gamoneda is a third year student studying pre-professional Biology and minoring in French. His research outside of iGEM involves studying the immune response regarding T-cells that results in Type 1 Diabetes at the Brusko Lab under the University of Florida Diabetes Institute. Diego aspires to attend medical school and work as a physician in the future. When not doing research, he loves exercising, watching the Florida Gators, and trying food from all cultures.


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