Team:Columbia NYC/Team


A team would be nothing without it's members. As such, we would like to introduce ourselves and our mentors!

Undergraduate Team Members


Jacky Cheung

Named after Hong Kong pop sensation Jacky Cheung, Jacky is currently a sophomore at Columbia College studying computer science with his mind set on going into medicine. However, Jacky's web design skills are rather lackluster. Nonetheless, he makes a fantastic last-minute logo designer in his humble opinion and did his best to organize and take care of soft-, dry-, and wet- lab responsibilties. Outside of iGEM, Jacky enjoys playing handball, table tennis, and basketball if he's not buried under a pile of work that has to be done or sleeping.


Samuel (Sam) Magaziner

Descended from the noble Magaziner clan of Humenne, Hungary (then the Austro-Hungarian Empire), makers and managers of an exploding powder magazine factory, Sam has turned his interests to more peaceful and less explosive pursuits. A 4th year undergraduate Biochemistry major, Sam enjoys microbiomes, gut peptides, and long walks on the beach. Some say his beard whispers secrets of arcane and scientific portents whilst he transforms cells. Others say it makes him look Amish. Regardless, Sam played a major role in construct and experimental design.


Hudson Lee

Surprisingly not named after the Hudson River, much to the disbelief of his other New York City natives, Hudson is currently a 2nd year undergraduate Biology major. Outside of the classroom, his interests include gymnastics, Korean Barbecue, breakdancing, and long walks on the beach. Apart from iGEM, he splits his time among Ballroom, Hip-Hop, and Capoeira dance teams. Even with these other commitments, Hudson headed up logo and banner designs as well as wetwork.


Suppawat (Kong) Kongthong

Kong hails from Bangkok, Thailand and is a sophomore studying Biology. When not pipetting, he’s usually cooking, learning Spanish from Kenya, who he is in turn teaching Thai, and watching Netflix (mainly Gossip Girl). Though he has never been to the beach, he enjoys long walks on the beach.


Kenya Velez

Kenya is currently a junior at Pace University majoring in biochemistry. The opportunity to be a part of the SPURS program, a biomedical research internship, has given me the opportunity to do research on the iGEM team. Currently my lab works consist in Columbia’s labs doing synthetic biology research and anti-microbial properties lab work at Pace University.

Junior Mentors


Sway Chen

Sway Chen is an MD/PhD student in Harris Wang’s lab at Columbia University. Her research focuses on developing novel methods for genetically engineering communities of microbes, particularly bacteria of the gut microbiome. Through this work, she hopes to better understand the role of human microbiomes in health and disease and to enable development of targeted therapeutic probiotics. Before coming to Columbia, Sway earned her AB in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard University and conducted research on motor circuits in the developing C. elegans nematode worm in Aravi Samuel’s lab.


Nathan Johns

Nathan is a PhD student in Harris Wang's Lab working on developing technologies for engineering diverse species and communities of microorganisms in order to study their evolution and to endow them with new capabilities. He is particularly interested in trying to engineer the many species of bacteria that make up the human microbiome with the goal of using them as novel therapeutics.


Sonja Billerbeck

Sonja is a postdoctoral fellow in the Cornish Laboratory. She received her PhD in 2013 at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) in the interdisciplinary Department for Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE). During her doctoral studies, Dr. Billerbeck developed a novel strategy for the rational design of switchable proteins for application in cell-free biotechnology. Her current research interest revolves around the field of synthetic biology, with special emphasis on protein engineering strategies applied to understand and functionalize bacterial microcompartments.

Senior Mentors / Principal Investigators


Harris Wang

Harris Wang has joined Columbia University Medical Center as an Assistant Professor in the Columbia Initiative in Systems Biology and the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology. His research focuses on understanding the evolution of the ecosystems that develop within heterogeneous microbial communities. Using approaches from genome engineering, DNA synthesis, and next-generation sequencing, he studies how genomes in microbial populations form, maintain themselves, and change over time, both within and across microbial communities. His goal is to use synthetic biology approaches to engineer ecologies of microbial populations, such as those found in the gut and elsewhere in the human body, in ways that could improve human health.


Virginia Cornish

Virginia joined the faculty of the Chemistry Department at Columbia in 1999, where she carries out research at the interface of chemistry and biology, and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2004 and then Professor in 2007. Her laboratory brings together modern methods in synthetic chemistry and DNA technology to expand the synthetic capabilities of living cells.


Ken Shepard

Ken joined Columbia University in 1997, where he is now Professor of Electrical Engineering. At the same time, he co-founded CadMOS Design Technology, an EDA start-up which pioneered PacifIC and CeltIC, the first tools for large-scale signal integrity analysis of digital integrated circuits. The success of these tools led Cadence to acquire CadMOS in 2001.Current research interests interests focus on circuits for VLSI integrated circuits in deeply-scaled CMOS technologies, new technologies for electronics applications, and the application of integrated circuits for biology-related applications.


Dana Pe'er

Dana Pe'er is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University and regarded as one of the leading researchers in computational systems biology. Her lab endeavors to understand the organization, function and evolution of molecular networks.