Prof. Jamal Lewis

Principal Investigator

Jamal Lewis is an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, Davis. Prior to his professorship, Dr. Lewis was Senior Scientist at OneVax, LLC and a Post Doctoral Associate in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Florida, where he also received a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in 2012. Dr. Lewis completed his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Florida A&M University in 2004, and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering in 2007 from North Carolina State University. His research, educational and entrepreneurial efforts have been supported by the NIH. His honors and awards include the prestigious NIH Early Stage Investigator MIRA and Regenerative Medicine Workshop Young Faculty Award. 


Hamilton Kakwere

Project Scientist

Dr. Kakwere holds an undergraduate degree in applied chemistry, a masters degree in polymers and surface coatings science and technology (Leeds University) and a PhD in polymer chemistry (University of Sydney). His research activities have focused on polymer chemistry (including synthetic organic chemistry). In addition to his PhD studies, he has completed four years of postdoctoral research in the following areas: (i) polymer synthesis via controlled polymerization techniques which incorporate reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer ( RAFT) polymerization, atom transfer radical polymerizations (ATRP), single electron transfer (SET) polymerization, ring opening polymerization (ROP) of cyclic esters/carbonates to generate (stimuli responsive) biodegradable polymers), (ii) application of polymers obtained by the aforementioned techniques in the design of (responsive) drug delivery systems, (iii) polymer self assembly in solution to generate nanostructured materials, (iv) fabrication of hybrid systems incorporating polymers and inorganic nanoparticles for drug delivery applications (nanomedicines) (v) surface modification of inorganic nanoparticles, (vi) synthetic organic chemistry and (vii) preparation of macromolecular chimeras (polymer/peptide conjugates).

Melissa Cruz-Acuña 

Postdoctoral Scholar

Melissa is a postdoctoral researcher in Lewis Lab. She completed her undergraduate degree in Industrial Biotechnology at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. Then she did a PhD in Biomedical Engineering under the guidance of Dr. Carlos Rinaldi and Dr. Jon Dobson at the University of Florida. Her research was focused on developing a clinically translatable magnetic nanoparticle system for gene transfection. As a PhD student Melissa was a recipient of Robert T. Pittman Fellowship from the Institute for Cell and Tissue Science and Engineering at the University, and completed a certificate in Engineering Entrepreneurship. During this time she also co-founded and presided PResente Corp., a non-profit organization that drew together $100,000 worth of efforts from cities in Florida, Georgia, and California to send relief to Puerto Rico after hurricane María hit the island. She is now back to the bench developing a universal microparticle system as an effective prophylactic vaccine. When she is not trying to save the world, Melissa is either cooking, hiking, traveling or dancing.

Riley Allen

Graduate Researcher

Riley is a fifth year Ph.D candidate in Biomedical Engineering. After receiving his Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry from UC Santa Barbara, Riley worked at a molecular pathology company in Santa Barbara for a year. Riley is a member of the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology. His current research involves determining the immunogenicity of poly lactic-co-glycolic acid and modulating dendritic cells for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Riley has received numerous accolades, including the Society for Biomaterials poster award, STAR honorable mention, and most recently the prestigious T32 Animal Models of Infectious Diseases Fellowship. In his spare time, Riley enjoys spending time at the beach, playing guitar, and hiking.

Noah Pacifici

Graduate Researcher

Noah Pacifici is a third year Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering. He is a NSF GRFP fellow and Pharmacology T32 trainee, and a member of the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology program. Before coming to UC Davis, Noah received his B.S. in Biological Engineering from Cornell University where he researched biomaterials to treat osteoarthritis. His current research focuses on understanding vomocytosis, a Cryptococcus neoformans phagocyte escape mechanism, to develop a targeted microparticle vaccine. Outside of the lab, Noah enjoys practicing jazz guitar, playing volleyball, and cooking new foods.

Rapeepat Sangsuwan Postdoctoral Scholar

Rapeepat Sangsuwan received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Silpakorn University, Thailand in 2011, and worked in the laboratory of Dr. Nantanit Wanichacheva. There, she studied fluorescence-based sensors for mercury ion detections in water. Shen then joined Dr. Prasat Kittakoop’s group at Chulabhorn Graduate Institute, Thailand in 2011 and worked on organocatalysts for the synthesis of coumarins and chromenes. In 2013, she finished her master’s degree in Chemical Biology and moved to California, where she worked as a Ph.D. student under the supervision of Dr. Matthew B. Francis at University of California, Berkeley. At UCB, her research focused on using bioconjugations for protein detection, intracellular delivery, and a study of protein conformational change. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2018, she moved to the Lewis lab at UC Davis where she now works as a postdoctoral fellow. Her current research interests include the study of immunosuppressive effects of lactic acid on immune cells and the application of drug-encapsulated microparticles for the treatment of diseases.

Amir Bolandparvaz

Graduate Researcher

Amir Bolandparvaz is a fifth-year Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate, also a member of the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology, at UC Davis with an entrepreneurial drive in multidisciplinary and translational research to improve human health. His research focuses on designing an epitope-functionalized iron oxide nanoparticle (NP) system as a biomagnetic-trap for collecting disease propagating MAR autoantibodies. Amir received his Bachelors degree in Biomedical Engineering- Biotechnology at UC San Diego and has numerous internship and work experiences, including Genentech and Life Technologies. Amir was recently awarded the year-long prestigious Business Development Fellowship, recognized as an Anpac BioInnovation and Entrepreneurship scholar, and received the UC Systemwide Bioengineering conference Rapid-fire talk award. Further, he is interested in a career at the intersection of entrepreneurship, business development, and project management. In his spare time, he enjoys playing tennis and basketball as well as playing the violin.


Rian Harriman

Graduate Researcher

Rian Harriman is a third year Ph.D. candidate in Immunology and is a member of the Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology program. After receiving his B.S in Microbiology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Rian worked at the biotech company Crystal Bioscience where he identified and isolated monoclonal antibodies to clinically significant targets. In addition, he assisted in Crystal’s milestone accomplishment of creating the world’s first transgenic chicken capable of producing fully human antibodies. His current research focuses on designing tolerance-inducing vaccine platforms consisting of microparticles composed of bacteria-derived polysaccharides. In his spare time, Rian enjoys playing basketball, eating adventurous foods, and camping.


Betsy Thuamsang

Volunteer Researcher

Betsy Thuamsang is recently graduated with a master’s degree in forensic science at UC Davis. For her master thesis, Betsy worked on the effect of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for caspase-dependent programmed cell death using a human neuronal cell line in Dr. Pamela Lein’s lab. Her interest in biomedical research began with her undergraduate training in neurodegenerative disease at University at Buffalo. Then, she realized that her long-term goal is to do biomedical research while she was working on her master thesis. Betsy joined Dr. Lewis’s lab because she would like to explore her interest in immunology while applying for a PhD. In Dr. Lewis’s lab, she’s learning about immunosuppressive effects of lactic acid on immune cells. If not in lab, she’s most likely hiking, in the gym, or exploring out new food. 

Hyunsoo Han  

Undergraduate Researcher

Hyunsoo Han is a second year Biomedical Engineering major at UC Davis from San Ramon, CA. He is interested in immunotherapy and engineering. Outside of lab, Hyunsoo enjoys biking, listening to music, playing games with friends, and shooting arrows.

Karen Parra
Graduate Researcher

Karen is a first year Ph.D student in Immunology. She received a B.S in Biology from the University of California, Riverside. During her time at UCR, she conducted research focusing on the role of astrocytes in lesion development in the brain of multiple sclerosis patients. She became an MARCU* Scholar which is a student training program (NIH-T34) that supports students to complete their baccalaureate degree, and transition into and complete biomedical, research-focused higher degree programs. Karen’s current research focuses on understanding the role dendritic cells may play in the foriegn body response. In her spare time, Karen enjoys doing landscape photography, spending time in the Santa Cruz mountains, and loves to bake.

Allen Tu  

Graduate Researcher

Allen Tu is a first year Immunology PhD student. Milk tea in one hand and pipette in another and he’s good to go! He is 9 feet tall and famously breathes fire. In Dr. Lewis’ lab his ongoing research involves using a microparticle-based strategy to modulate the immune system in rheumatoid arthritis, as well as exploring the cytotoxic capacity of the polymer poly propylacrylic acid to kill cancer cells. Allen did undergraduate research at UC Davis in Scott Dawson’s lab, GFP-tagging candidate cytoskeletal proteins in the parasitic protist, Giardia lamblia.  After receiving his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, he worked in Mark Nicolls’ Pulmonary and Critical Care lab at Stanford Medicine where he cultivated his passion for immunology. Here, he studied how immune dysregulation in the context of vascular biology contributes to lung disease – specifically lung transplant rejection, pulmonary hypertension, and lymphedema. He also enjoys video games, reading sci-fi, and playing racquetball.

Emilie Ivtchenko

Undergraduate Researcher

Emilie Ivtchenko is a third year student at UC Davis. She is majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a passion for drug and device development. In her free time she likes to play sports, dance, adventure outdoors, and travel.

Neeraj Senthil  

Undergraduate Researcher

Neeraj Senthil is a first year undergraduate student at UC Davis, majoring in biomedical engineering. Neeraj decided to join Dr. Lewis’ lab as he finds the intersection of biomaterials and immunology to be extremely fascinating. His interest in biomedical engineering is rooted in his deep compassion and empathy for others, especially youth and children; in fact, Neeraj has spent hundreds of hours volunteering in a hospital, working as a martial arts instructor, and interning for the Boys & Girls Club. In his spare time, Neeraj loves to watch movies, hang out with his friends outdoors, and eat out at different restaurants.




Current Position

Luke McKibbin
Jasmeen Saini
Bahieh Noorafhan
Yuming Xiang
Kenneth Alvarez
Zexi Zang

Svetlana Miakicheva

Shahab Chizari

Hannah Kirkegaard

Vishal Manickham

Crystal Avila

Meghan Doherty

Jeffrey Ma 

Annie Zhou

Anna Jiang

Nicholas Gregory Bachand 

Mauricio Pirir 

Pauldin Bet Aivaz 

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Summer Intern

Junior Specialist/Lab Manager 

Undergraduate Researcher 

Engineer at Cannon Quality Group
Researcher at GigaGen Inc
Orchid Orthopedic Solutions
Medical School Gap Year


Pact Pharma  

Kite Pharma

Researcher at GigaGen Inc

Engineering Assistant, Reverence Eng

Medtronic Consumer Affairs Specialist

PhD Student at University of Michigan

PhD Student at UT Austin  

PhD Student

UC Berkley Undergraduate 

Program Manager at LakePharma

R&D Engineer at Corinth Medtech

Lewis Lab

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Amir Bolandparvaz