You are here

Group members

Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, Professor

Dr. Claudia Schmidt-Dannert is a Distinguished McKnight Professor and Kirkwood Chair of Biochemistry in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics. She completed her B.S. and M.S. in Biochemistry and Genetics at the TU Braunschweig and performed her PhD research at the National Research Center for Biotechnology (GBF, now Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research) in Braunschweig (1994). She then moved to the University of Stuttgart, and after a brief postdoctoral time, led he Molecular Biotechnology Group in the Institute of Technical Biochemistry as “Habilitant”. In 1998, she received a habilitation-fellowship from the German Science Foundation for her research proposal on in vitro pathway evolution and with this project, joined 2018 Chemistry Nobel Laureate Prof. Frances Arnold’s group at the California Institute of Technology to carry out her research on “molecular breeding of pathways” using carotenoid biosynthesis as a model system. In 2000, she joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota.

Sara Bratsch, Postdoctoral Researcher

Sara obtained her BS in Biotechnology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a PhD in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota. She received multiple fellowships and research grants to support her doctoral thesis research. Following her PhD, she received a USDA post-doctoral fellowship to continue research on the characterization and diagnostics of emergent plant viruses. As part of her research, Sara has gained extensive experience in protein biochemistry, immunology, molecular biology, imaging and electron microscopy of viruses and disease associated proteins. In 2019, she joined the Schmidt-Dannert lab to carry out research on self-assembling protein-based nanomaterials and engineered living materials.

Francois Gaascht, Postdoctoral Researcher

Francois obtained his BSc and MSc at the University of Strasbourg (France) and completed his PhD at the Laboratoire de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire du Cancer (Luxembourg) in the framework of the European RedCat Project. As Marie Curie Fellow, his research project focused on the discovery and the elucidation of the mode of action of several natural and natural-based products as anticancer drugs. After acquisition of new skills in natural products isolation and structure elucidation at the Fundacíon MEDINA (Granada, Spain), he joined the Schmidt-Dannert lab in October 2016 as Postdoctoral Research Associate. His research project aims to screen and isolate new antifungal compounds from Basidiomycota.

Sun-young Kang, Postdoctoral Researcher

Sun-young Kang (SUN) is a Postdoctoral Research Associate who joined the Schmidt-Dannert lab in March 2018. She received her Ph.D. in Pharmacy at the Chungbuk National University (Korea). Also, she worked as a graduate research assistant at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (Korea). Her research focuses on increasing the secretion of scaffold protein fabricated by  bacterial host. She is also interested in a synthetic biology approach for optimizing a biological system for the biosynthesis of natural products.

Anaya Pokhrel, Postdoctoral Researcher

Anaya Pokhrel is a Postdoctoral Research Associate who joined the Schmidt-Dannert lab in February 2019. He received his M.S. from the Kathmandu University (Nepal) and his Ph.D. from the Institute of Biomolecule Reconstruction Laboratory at Sun Moon University (Korea). His research background is in metabolic engineering and biochemical characterization of bioactive natural products biosynthetic pathways. His current research projects focus on developting synthetic biology tools and engineering microbial platform strains for different biomanufacturing applications, including the fabrication of functional biomaterials.

Min-Ju Seo, Postdoctoral Researcher

Min-Ju received her B.S. from Chung-Ang University and her Ph. D from Konkuk University (Korea). She joind the Schmidt-Dannert lab in December 2019. Her research background is in biochemical characterization of diverse enzymes, engineering of biocatalysts, and production of high-value products using microbial enzymes. Her current research objective is the development of multi-enzymes systems and genetically programmable materials for in vitro biocatalysis.

Ruijie Zhang, Postdoctoral Researcher

Ruijie obtained her B. Sc. at the Zhengzhou University (China) and completed her PhD at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Her research has primarily focused on metabolic engineering and the identification of enzymes involved in sterol catabolism for the production of steroid metabolites. She joined the Schmidt-Dannert lab in July 2019. Her current research objective is the creation of mechanically robust and tough materials as platforms for biotechnological applications.

Eliana Pena, Graduate Student

Eliana Pena is a graduate student in the BMBB program. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Biochemistry at Texas State University and joined the Schmidt-Dannert lab in March 2021. Her research interests are in engineering and developing novel in-vitro biocatalytic strategies for the production of natural products and therapeutic agents. In her free time, Eliana enjoys playing D&D, hiking, rock climbing, identifying plants and mushrooms in nature, cooking, and promoting and advocating for diversity in STEM.

Kelly Wallin, Graduate Student

Kelly is a graduate student in the BMBB program. She received B.S. degrees in Biochemistry and Botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and joined the Schmidt-Dannert lab in February 2016. Her research focuses on utilizing bacterial microcompartments for biotechnology applications, including the development of more efficient methods for biocatalysis. She also works with a local middle school Girl Scout troop.

Sarah Schmidt-Dannert, Undergraduate (alum -2020)

Sarah is a undergraduate student majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in management. Her lab experience during summer 2017 initiated her interest in proteins that self-assemble into supramolecular architectures. She has worked on genetic engineering and characterization of protein-based materials ever since. She hopes to learn and apply her research skills to a wide range of  topics on Biochemistry. In her free time she enjoys running, cooking, and spending time with family.

 Azion White, Undergraduate (alum -2020)

Azion is an undergraduate student majoring in biochemistry and minoring in management. His interest in nanotechnology and material sciences led him to investigate protein engineering in the Schmidt-Dannert lab and its potential applications for both of these fields. He hopes to use what he learns in this lab to start a biotech company in the near future. In his free time, Azion enjoys teaching himself how to play the violin.