The Team

About the Michigan Synthetic Biology Team
We are the University of Michigan’s only student-run synthetic biology research and design team. Our team and project development is driven entirely by undergraduates and is separate from any faculty labs.


Cristina Castillo
Cristina is a senior studying Cellular and Molecular Biology and Biomedical Engineering. She is currently the president of the team and led the wetlab work.  Cristina is super smart and really sweet. She likes coffee, bubble tea, and frequently gets Panera. She often meows and watch out if someone turns on latin music, because this girl can dance.

Jennifer Knister
Jenn is a senior studying Cellular and Molecular Biology and Biomedical Engineering. As the Principal Investigator, Jenn thought paper based gene circuits were super cool and set about designing riboswitches to add to their uses.  She instructed much of the experiments and designed new switches to test, even when she was three time zones away in San Francisco over the summer. She has mad frisbee skills and she is a dog whisperer.

Jeremy Kuo
Jeremy is a senior studying Microbiology and Music, and is currently the treasurer of the team. He was indispensable for fundraising, consulted with people in industry, and also learned html from Max so we could do this wiki.  Jeremy is spent his summer wrangling kids as a U of M math and science summer camp and got them super pumped about science. When he is not giving out two liter jugs of bubble tea to team members, he also enjoys taking pictures of banana bread.

Nick Emery
Nick is a sophomore studying Cellular and Molecular Biology and Biomedical Engineering. Despite being his first year on the team, he has been invaluable for the design and wet lab work. Nick works in two other labs on campus and is somehow graduating super early, next December. Nick has a moderate addiction to caffeine.  When we asked Nick how much time and energy he had for this project, his answer was “Infinite.”

Christine Hathaway
Christine is a junior studying Materials Science and Engineering. Apparently she is super fun and can be found around campus, particularly at bus stops. Also, she is really good at making banana bread.

Max Gittelman
Max is a junior studying Computer Science. When he was not two timing with the Michigan Software team, he was also working on our wiki. He enjoys flying hot air balloons in his free time and he has an identical twin.

Rachel Sun
Rachel is studying Cellular and Molecular Biology and Biomedical Engineering. This is her first year on the Michigan Synthetic Biology Team. She has shown a lot of potential as a first year member of the team, despite being super busy getting EMT certified over the summer.  When it comes to rock climbing, she might beat Spider-Man.

Becca Loechli
Becca is a senior studying Biochemistry.  This is her second year on the Michigan Synthetic Biology team, she finds time in her busy schedule for synthetic biology when she is not studying for the MCAT.  Becca helped the team gain background knowledge about infectious diseases and aptamers that have already been developed.  Becca is has also studied ballet since she was a child, and is a wonderful dancer.

Jacob Leonhardt
Jake is a student at the University of Michigan studying Biology and helped with human practices.  He is also an expert painter.

Malcolm Childs
Although Malcolm goes to Eastern Michigan University, he was welcomed into the team for his second year. He enjoys hanging out in lab.