Profiles of the speakers for the 29th Annual CBB Conference

Lilliana Radoshevich, Ph.D.

Dr. Lilliana Radoshevich completed her PhD in the Biomedical Sciences Program at the University of California, San Francisco in 2011. Her graduate work aimed to map novel conjugates of the ubiquitin-like protein ATG12 that controls autophagy and how it affects mitochondrial morphology with Dr. Jay Debnath.  She subsequently trained with Professor Pascale Cossart at the Pasteur Institute on the antibacterial properties of an interferon-induced ubiquitin-like protein, ISG15, following Listeria monocytogenes infection. She started her laboratory at the University of Iowa in December of 2017 and has since developed a new technology to map sites of modification using mass spectrometry. Her laboratory uses in vitro models of infection, in cells and organoids, and in vivo in murine models and patient samples following infection with bacterial and viral pathogens to understand the consequences of ubiquitin-like protein modification.   


Nigel F. Ruel Ph.D.

Nigel F. Reuel is an Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Iowa State University and is a Jack R. and Carol A. Johnson Faculty Fellow and College of Engineering Entrepreneurial Fellow.  He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering at MIT in 2014 under the guidance of Prof. Michael Strano.  After graduating, he attempted to commercialize his PhD work in a startup, Volvox Biologic Inc. (Boston), and then consulted at a larger life science tool company that obtained the startup IP (Maryland).  He then worked as a Research Investigator (PI) at DuPont’s historic Central Research and Development campus (Wilmington, DE) for two years on projects ranging from wireless power transfer, sensors, and precision agriculture.  He was then promoted as the corporate technology scout, where, for 8 months, he traveled to universities and incubators to find technology for the CTO office at DuPont. Although this was an exciting role at a large company, he quickly realized that making technology is more stimulating than finding it and was pleased with the opportunity to come to ISU and become an entrepreneurial-minded professor. Currently his group has over 15 active technology disclosures at ISURF, two granted ISU patents, and three startup company offshoots (Skroot Laboratory Inc., Frugi Biotech Inc. (acquired by BigHat Biosciences Inc.), and Zymosense Inc. which have earned >$2M in federal grants). Dr. Reuel’s work has been recognized by the NSF Career Award (2021), NIH Outstanding Early Investigator Award R35 (2020), 3M Nontennured Faculty Award and BMES Advanced Biomanufacturing Junior Investigator Award (2020).


Christy Taylor, Ph.D.

Christy Taylor is the Computational Protein Design Lead and Science Fellow at Bayer Crop Science in St. Louis, MO.  Christy graduated summa cum laude from Missouri University of Science and Technology with a B.S. degree in Chemistry.  Christy received the NSF Predoctoral Fellowship and the Anna Fuller Cancer Research Predoctoral Fellowship for her Ph.D. studies.  Christy received a Ph.D. in Biology at MIT with Dr. Amy Keating with her doctoral thesis titled “Redesigning Specificity in Miniproteins”.  In Dr. Keating’s lab, Christy leveraged computational and experimental protein design strategies to study protein oligomerization and coiled coil proteins. 

Christy did her postdoctoral studies at Washington University in St. Louis with Dr. Garland Marshall.  While in Dr. Marshall’s lab, Christy focused on computational chemistry projects around GPCRs.  Christy was awarded the NIH National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellowship, W.M. Keck Postdoctoral Fellowship in Molecular Medicine, and the NIH National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellowship for her post-doctoral work. 

Wanting to learn more about computational biology, Christy took a staff scientist position at the Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine where she did comparative genomics of nematodes.  Christy joined Monsanto in 2012 in the Chemistry Division where she did bioinformatics and small molecule research.  In 2018, Christy transitioned over to the Computational Protein Design Team in the Biotechnology organization.   Christy’s team designs proteins for insect control and herbicide tolerance in the major row crops.  In 2022, Christy’s team expanded to also encompass synthetic element design and protein expression optimization.

Christy has over 19 publications and 6 patents the areas of bioinformatics, computational chemistry, protein design, agrochemicals and insect control. At Monsanto and Bayer, she has received several awards including the  Bayer Eclipse Award, Bayer Life Science Collaboration Competition Winner, Bayer Impact Award, Monsanto ICE (Inspire, Communicate, Execute) Award.


Thaddeus J. Wadas, Ph.D.

Dr. Wadas received his Ph.D. in Chemistry under the direction of Richard Eisenberg, Ph.D. at the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.  He then pursued postdoctoral studies as a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Fellow under the direction of Carolyn Anderson, Ph.D. in the Department of Radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. Under her direction he evaluated 64Cu-radiopharmaceuticals for the PET imaging of neuroendocrine tumors and metastatic bone disease.  In 2011, he joined the faculty at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston Salem, NC as an Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology.  There his research focused on the development of 89Zr- and 225Ac-based radiopharmaceuticals for the imaging and therapy of cancer, respectively. In 2018, he gave the Plenary Lecture at the Korean Society of Radiopharmaceuticals and Molecular Probes Conference in Seoul, South Korea. In 2019, he joined the Department of Radiology at the University of Iowa where he continues his radiopharmaceutical research.  Currently, he serves as the Managing Director of the Small Animal Imaging Core Facility and Team Leader of the Production Unit at the University of Iowa’s Theranostics Laboratory. He serves as a PI or Co-I on several funded applications from the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, Melanoma Research Alliance, and the National Institutes of Health.


Christopher A. Vakulskas, Ph.D. 

Dr Christopher Vakulskas is the Senior Director of Enzyme Evolution at IDT. Dr Vakulskas earned his PhD in Microbiology at the University of Iowa, where he studied genetic regulatory circuits in pathogenic bacterial species. After earning his PhD, he became an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Florida, where he studied RNA binding proteins and posttranscriptional gene regulation. At IDT, Dr Vakulskas has managed contract research projects, led process development for cGMP CRISPR protein purification, and is currently serving as the Senior Director of Enzyme Evolution.  His team has developed novel products including the Alt-R S.p. HiFi Cas9 Nuclease (published in Nature Medicine), Alt-R A.s. Cas12a (Cpf1) Ultra Nuclease (published in Nature Communications), and the L.b. Cas12a (Cpf1) Ultra Nuclease product for genome editing in plants.


Divya Bhat, Ph.D. candidate

Divya S Bhat was born and raised in Mumbai, India. After receiving a BS in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she spent 1.5 years working in the lab of Dr. K Smalley (Moffitt Cancer Hospital, Tampa FL) on the identification of HDAC inhibitors for the treatment of BRAF V600E mutant melanoma. She joined the lab of Dr. M Spies in 2019 and has been working on her thesis project titled: Therapeutic disruption of RAD52-DNA complexation via novel drug like inhibitors for the treatment of BRCA deficient cancers


Nicholas Luedtke, Ph.D. Candidate

Nicholas is originally from Appleton, Wisconsin and earned a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin in 2016. That same year, Nicholas began pursuing Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Iowa within the Cheatum research group. He is primarily focused on studying how to insert infrared spectroscopic probes in enzymes to make active site dynamics measurements possible. After graduation, Nick intends to pursue an industrial research scientist position to find new applications of nature’s toolbox and to deconvolute how permutations of nucleotides or amino acids give rise to diverse Catalysts and materials.


Justin Ling, Ph.D. Candidate

Originally form eastern Iowa, Justin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Genetics in 2018 from Iowa State University. As an undergrad, he conducted research under the direction of Dr. Dipali Sashital in the biochemistry department. After graduation, he joined the Department of Biochemistry to obtain his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Justin became a member of the Washington lab to conduct research on DNA damage bypass. He primarily focuses on the structure and activity of the yeast fork reversal helicase, Rad5.