Prof. Jamal Lewis

Principal Investigator

Jamal Lewis is an Associate 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, Regenerative Medicine Workshop Young Faculty Award and the CMBE Journal Young Innovator Award. 


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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 and a Hartwell fellow in the 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.

Noah Pacifici

Graduate Researcher

Noah Pacifici is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate 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.


Rian Harriman

Graduate Researcher

Rian Harriman is a fifth 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.


Allen Tu  

Graduate Researcher

Allen Tu is a third year Immunology PhD student and a pharmacological T32 trainee.  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 lymph2edema. He also enjoys video games, reading sci-fi, and playing racquetball.


Deanna Diaz

Graduate Researcher

Deanna Diaz is a second year Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering focusing on immunoengineering. She received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a Biomedical concentration from the University of Kansas. While at KU she was involved in an NIH funded biomedical research program known as Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD). She worked in a Pharmaceutical Chemistry lab with Dr. Cory Berkland researching soluble antigen arrays for B cell detection and to anergize B cells in autoimmune diseases. Deanna's current research focuses on developing gut-derived, tolerogenic microparticles for targeting and modulation of dendritic cells in autoimmune conditions. In her spare time, Deanna enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles, making art, exercising, dancing, and traveling.

Manuel (Arthur) Flores Rodriquez 
Graduate Researcher

Manuel (Arthur) Flores Rodriguez earned a degree in Global Disease Biology from UC Davis in June 2020. Arthur is a scholar in the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program at the University of California, Davis ( As an undergraduate, he worked in the Bevins Lab to assist in the characterization of antimicrobial peptide expression in mouse models of intestinal inflammation. As a member of the Lewis Lab, he is focused on co-opting the intrinsic mechanisms solid tumors use to evade the immune system as a possible therapeutic for immune dysregulation.


Hyunsoo Han  

Undergraduate Researcher

Hyunsoo Han is a fourth 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.

Betsy Thuamsang

Junior Specialist

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. 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. 


Neeraj Senthil  

Undergraduate Researcher

Neeraj Senthil is a third 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.


Nicolas Radoc
Undergraduate Researcher

Nicolas Radoc is a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis. He is interested in a career in medical devices, though he decided on joining the Lewis Lab to explore his interest in immunology and research. When he’s not in the lab, Nicolas enjoys watching and playing basketball, traveling, and being surrounded by his family and friends.

Nidhi Talasu
Undergraduate Researcher

I am a third year undergraduate student majoring in biomedical engineering at UC Davis. I am interested in pursuing a career in drug development or medical devices. In my free time I enjoy hanging out with friends, watching movies, and traveling.

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Current Position

Rapeepat Sangsuwan, Ph.D.

Riley Allen, Ph.D.

Amir Bolandparvaz, Ph.D.

Karen Parra

Emilie Ivtchenko

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

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Junior Specialist/Lab Manager 

Undergraduate Researcher 

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