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Shasha Chong, Ph.D., Principal Investigator 

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Ronald and JoAnne Willens Scholar

Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Email: schong@caltech.edu

Office: 150 Braun Laboratory

Shasha obtained her B.S. in Chemistry from University of Science & Technology of China and her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from Harvard University. She did her postdoctoral research at University of California, Berkeley and joined the faculty of California Institute of Technology in August 2021. As a Ph.D. student under the direction of Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, Shasha developed novel optical imaging modalities and achieved detection of single-molecule optical absorption at room temperature. Then she ventured into the study of DNA-protein interactions and stochastic gene expression by in vitro single-molecule imaging. In particular, she developed a single-molecule RNA-imaging assay to tackle the mechanism of transcriptional bursting of highly expressed genes in E. coli. Her deep interest in more complex regulatory behaviors led her to move from bacteria to mammals for her postdoctoral research. In the joint laboratories of Robert Tjian and Xavier Darzacq, she combined powerful single-cell and single-molecule imaging tools with genome editing and genetics approaches to investigate how intrinsically disordered regions in human transcription factors perform critical functions in transcriptional regulation and oncogenesis. Her independent research group employs multidisciplinary approaches to tackle the fundamental rules that govern the interaction behaviors of intrinsically disordered regions and elucidate their roles in regulating gene transcription under normal and disease conditions. Shasha is named a 2022 Searle Scholar and a 2022 Pew-Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research.

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Aracely Sustaita, Administrative Coordinator

B.A., University of California, Los Angeles

Email: aracelys@caltech.edu

Aracely is a Los Angeles native, and more specifically a Pasadena native. She joined the Institute in 2022, and then Chemistry & Chemical Engineering in 2023. Aracely loves two sports: baseball and soccer. She also enjoys writing, spending time with family and friends, and wandering the local mountain ranges with a dog or two. She graduated from UCLA and is therefore a Bruin for life.

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Barun Kumar Maity, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar

Ph.D., Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, 2019

Email: barun@caltech.edu

Barun grew up in India. He obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Calcutta, his M.S. in Chemistry from IIT Kanpur, and his Ph.D. in Chemical Sciences from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. During his PhD, Barun studied amyloid aggregation and developed novel microscopy and spectroscopy methods. During his first postdoc with Paul Selvin in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he developed new super-resolution imaging methods. In the Chong Lab, he investigates how intrinsically disordered regions of oncogenic transcription factors play a role in oncogenesis using single-molecule imaging and genome engineering approaches. 

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Jiamin Guo, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar

Ph.D., City of Hope Cancer Center, 2023

Email: jguo88@caltech.edu

Jiamin grew up in Jiangsu, China. She obtained her B.S. in Pharmaceutical Science and her Master's in Stem Cell Biology from China Pharmaceutical University, followed by her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from City of Hope Cancer Center. During her Ph.D. in Steven Rosen’s lab, Jiamin's research focused on developing novel therapeutic approaches for blood cancer therapy. She has recently joined the Chong Lab with a strong interest in understanding the role of liquid–liquid phase separation in oncogenesis.

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Yanghao Zhong, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar

Ph.D., University of California at San Diego, 2022

Email: yzhong@caltech.edu

Yanghao grew up in Chengdu, China. He obtained his B.S. in Biosciences from University of Science and Technology of China and Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from University of California San Diego. During his graduate study, Yanghao investigated the spatiotemporal regulations and functions of the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) using genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors under Jin Zhang’s guidance. In the Chong Lab, Yanghao is interested in developing methods to understand the molecular determinants of intrinsically disordered proteins and their roles in human diseases.

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Jonathan Banh, Research Technician

B.S., University of California, Los Angeles, 2023

Email: jbanh@caltech.edu

A Los Angeles native, Jonathan graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2023 with a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. He joined the Chong Lab in order to further explore research as an aspiring physician-scientist. His interests lie in exploring cellular transcriptional control in the context of disease pathogenesis.

Qinyu Han, Graduate Student (Chem, G3) 

B.S., Nanyang Technological University, 2021

Email: qhan@caltech.edu

Originally from Zhuhai, China, Qinyu obtained her B.S. in Chemistry and Biological Chemistry from Nanyang Technological University. During her undergraduate years, she developed various fluorescent probes for biosensing and nanotherapy under the direction of Bengang Xing. Qinyu joined the Chong lab in December 2021. She is interested in utilizing quantitative single-cell imaging methods to understand the interaction behaviors of oncogenic fusion transcription factors mediated by their intrinsically disordered regions.

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Shawn Yoshida, Graduate Student (BMB, G3, 2023 NSF Graduate Research Fellow)

B.A., Case Western Reserve University, 2021

Email: syoshida@caltech.edu

Shawn is originally from Tokyo, Japan and grew up in Illinois. He earned a B.A. in Physics from Case Western Reserve University, where he applied novel super-resolution techniques to the characterization of biomolecular diffusion in the extracellular matrix. He is currently interested in the dynamics of transcriptional regulation.

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Jamie Takashima, Joint Graduate Student with the Hsieh-Wilson Lab (Chem, G3, 2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellow)

B.S., University of Arizona, 2021

Email: jtakashi@caltech.edu

Jamie grew up in Mountain View, CA and earned their B.S. in Chemistry and B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Arizona. During their undergraduate research, they studied the interactome of the chemotactic receptor cAR1 in Pascale Charest's lab. In the Chong Lab, they are interested in studying the effect of post-translational modifications on multivalent interactions between the intrinsically disordered regions of proteins.

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Jiapei Miao, Joint Graduate Student with the Thomson Lab (CB&MB, G1)

B.S., National University of Singapore, 2023

Email: jiapei_miao@caltech.edu

Jiapei is originally from Tianjin, China, and later moved to Singapore. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the National University of Singapore. During her undergraduate studies, she worked on a computational project aimed at identifying potential drug candidates targeting PTK6, utilizing the approach of in silico structure-based drug design.

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Michael T. Di Martino, Graduate Student (Bioengineering G1)

B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 2020

Email: mdimarti@caltech.edu

Mike grew up in Ewa Beach, HI and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020 with a BA in General Biology with minors in Chemistry and Theatre Arts. His undergraduate research experiences were a combination of biomicrofluidics and immunology. He is presently interested in modeling biological systems, cellular dynamics and precision medicine. 

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