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Current Members

Celia A. Schiffer, PhD 

Professor & Chair of Biochemistry & Molecular Biotechnology

Principal Investigator 

Arthur F. and Helen P. Koskinas Professorship in Biochemistry & Molecular Biotechnology

Director Institute for Drug Resistance (IDR)



Theme: Drug Resistance

Diseases: HIV; HCV; Cancer; Influenza; Dengue

Proteins: HIV-1 protease; HCV NS3/4A protease; APOBEC3's; Influenza neuraminindase; Influenza hemagglutinin; Dengue NS2B/NS3 protease

Research Technique: Everything

 Akbar Ali, PhD

Associate Professor

Tel: 508-856-8873  



Theme: Drug Resistance Diseases: HIV; HCV; Dengue; Cancer

Proteins: HIV-1 protease; HCV NS3/4A protease; Dengue NS2B/NS3; APOBEC3's

Research Technique: Organic Chemistry


Mohan Somasundaran, PhD

Associate Professor, Virologist

Tel: 508-856-4408  



Theme: Virus-Cell interactions, Antivirals, Drug Resistance

Diseases: HIV; Influenza; SARS-CoV2; Cancer

Proteins: Influenza hemagglutinin/neuraminidase; SARS-CoV2 Spike/Proteases; Ace2, TMPRSS2; APOBEC3's; HIV-1 protease

Research Technique: Molecular Virology; Cryo EM/ET; Virus lab

Nese Kurt Yilmaz, PhD

Associate Professor

Tel: 508-856-1867  



Theme: Drug Resistance

Diseases: HIV; HCV; Cancer; Influenza; Dengue

Proteins: HIV-1 protease; HCV NS3/4A protease; APOBEC3's; Influenza neuraminidase; Dengue NS2B/NS3

Research Techniques: Enzyme Inhibition; Structural Analysis; Lab Managing


Ala M Shaqra, PhD, MBA

Senior Research Scientist and Laboratory Manager 



Theme: Drug Resistance

Diseases: HIV; HCV; Cancer; Influenza; Dengue

Proteins: HIV-1 protease; HCV NS3/4A protease; Influenza neuraminidase; Dengue NS2B/NS3

Research Techniques: Lab Managing; Protein Expression; Protein Crystallization; Enzyme Inhibition

Research Interest: Using structural biology in conjunction with biochemistry and biophysics to design potent therapeutic candidates for human diseases. 


Jeong Min Lee, PhD

Sr. Research Scientist 



Theme: engineering cytosine base editor   

Diseases: diverse genetic diseases

Proteins: APOBEC3's; Cas9; uracil glycosylase inhibitor; the components of CRISPR gene editing

Research Technique: protein engineering and biochemistry    

Research Interests: engineering proteins, nucleic acids, or nanomaterials with novel structures, dynamics, and functions for basic biology/biomedical applications and effective therapeutic approaches.


Dinesh Barak, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate

Phone: 508-856-4476


Theme: Drug Resistance

Diseases: HIV; Cancer; SARS-CoV-2Proteins: HIV-1 protease; HTLV-1 protease; SARC-CoV-2 Main protease

Research Technique: Synthetic Organic and Medicinal Chemistry                                 

Research Interests: Synthesis of novel heterocycles as potential antiviral agents 




Sabihur Rahman Farooqui, PhD

Theme: Cell-Virus interaction, Antivirals
Disease: Influenza Virus and HTLV-1
Proteins: Influenza HA and HTLV-1 Protease
Research Techniques: Molecular Biology and Cryo-ET
Research Interest: To investigate the cell entry mechanisms and neutralization of viruses using the Influenza virus as a model system.

Jagroop Kaur, PhD 

Postdoctoral Associate



Theme: Drug Resistance

Disease: Diabetes, Viral Infections   

Proteins: Renalase, HIV-1 Protease, SARS-CoV2 MPro

Research Techniques: Organic Chemistry Methodologies; Small Molecule Synthesis, Purification and Characterization; Enzyme Inhibition Assays

Research Interest: Design and synthesis of Small Molecule Viral Protease Inhibitors. Furthermore, evaluation of Enzyme Inhibition via Both Direct and Indirect Binding Assays, Employing Varied Approaches Such as ITC, UV-Vis, Fluorescence, and NMR Spectroscopy


Arooma Maryam, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate



Theme: Small molecule drug discovery against autoimmune disease   

Diseases: Type 1 Diabetes, Cancer Proteins: Human Renalase, APOBEC3 isoforms

Research Techniques: Protein Expression and Purification, molecular modelling, and molecular dynamics simulation. Structural analysis, virtual small molecule drug screening.

Research Interest: Utilizing computational methodologies, including molecular modeling and conventional molecular dynamics simulations to understand the relationship between the three-dimensional structures, dynamics and the biological functions of DNA-binding enzymes and proteins central to Type I Diabetes.


Vincent Azzolino, MD/PhD Student  



Theme: Drug Resistance

Disease: Enterovirus, specifically EV-D68Proteins: Enteroviral 3C protease and other 3C and 3C-like proteases

Research Techniques: Protein Expression and Purification, Computational Modeling, Molecular Dynamic Simulations, X-ray Crystallography, Enzyme Activity and Enzyme Inhibition Assays, Structure Aided Drug Design.

Research Interest: Understanding the complexity behind inhibitor design to mitigate formation of resistance in hyper-mutating viruses. My goal is to apply this understanding and skill set as a future physician-scientist through the lens of Dermatology as I study diseases with skin manifestations requiring novel therapeutic design. 


Adam Hedger, PhD Student

Joint placement with Watts Lab  



Theme: Medicinal, Nucleic Acid, and Oligonucleotide Chemistry

Proteins: APOBEC3 enzymes and SARS-CoV-2 Main Protease

Research Techniques: Synthetic Organic and Medicinal Chemistry, Nucleic Acid Chemistry, Oligonucleotide Synthesis and Purification.

Research Interest: Combining Nucleic Acid chemistry with Structure-Based Drug Design – to synthesize chemically modified oligonucleotide inhibitors for DNA-binding enzymes. Additionally, the design, synthesis, and purification of peptidomimetic/macrocyclic compounds targeting viral proteases.


Judy Huang, PhD Student 



Research Interest: Judy is interested in using quantitative cryo-electron tomography to analyze structure-function relationships of influenza viruses. Outside of lab, they are an active UMass Chan student leader. Judy is the current Diversity Pillar of the Student Government Alliance and the Diversity and Inclusion Co-chair of the Graduate Student Body Council


Lauren Intravaia, PhD Student



Theme: Drug Resistance 
Disease: HIV
Proteins:  HIV-1 protease Research Techniques: Machine learning, molecular dynamics, protein structure prediction
Research Interest: Using computational methods to enhance structure-based drug design and reveal molecular mechanisms underlying drug resistance.


Sarah Zvornicanin, PhD Student


Theme: Drug resistance
Diseases: HTLV-1, SARS-CoV-2 

Proteins: HTLV-1 Protease, SARS-CoV-2 Main Protease

Research Technique: Protein Purification, Enzyme Inhibition Assays, X-ray Crystallography, Protein Structure Analysis, Structure-based Drug Design, Protein Modeling, Molecular Dynamics Simulations

Research Interests: For HTLV-1 Protease, I'm inspired to design and characterize novel, resistance-preventing, potent inhibitors against HTLV-1 protease using structural and biochemical techniques. For SARS-CoV-2 Mpro, I'm interested in characterizing cooperativity and/or dimerization of the enzyme as well as interpreting the drug resistance mutations which have arisen from current antiviral treatments.