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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. 

Sadie M. Rubalcava, Administrative Assistant

B.A., California State University, Los Angeles, 2019

Email: sadier@caltech.edu

Sadie is a Los Angeles native who just can’t get enough of our beautiful beaches and world-famous traffic. In her free time, Sadie enjoys weightlifting, CrossFit, obstacle course races, and trying new coffee places. She is a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the USWNT.

Victoria Walling, Research Technician

B.S., U.C. San Diego, 2021

Email: toriw@caltech.edu

Victoria a SoCal native that grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. She received her B.S. in Microbiology from University of California, San Diego and has previously worked with various start-up biotech companies. Her most recent work before joining the Chong Lab focused on using prokaryotic and eukaryotic expression systems to develop novel therapeutic proteins. 

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Shawn (Zhao) Irgen-Gioro, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2021
B.A., U.C. Berkeley, 2015

Email: irgengioro@caltech.edu

Shawn received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern University, where he studied with Elad Harel and Emily A. Weiss. His graduate work concentrated on semi-classical and quantum coherence, where he studied proteins and nanomaterials through non-linear spectroscopy and fluorescence microscopy. His fascination with emergent phenomena led him to his current work on biomolecular interaction dynamics and liquid-liquid phase separation of proteins.

Qinyu Han, Graduate Student (Chem) 

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.

Li Bo

Bo Li, Rotation Graduate Student (Chem)

B.S., Tianjin University, 2021

Email: bli3@caltech.edu

Originally from Nantong, China, Bo obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from Tianjin and Nankai Universities. During his undergraduate studies, Bo applied theoretical chemistry and machine learning methods to investigate various topics including biosynthesis, organic materials, reaction dynamics, photochemistry, and data-driven molecular discovery.

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Rongrong Du, Rotation Graduate Student (BioE)

B.S., Fudan University, 2021
Email: rdu2@caltech.edu

Originally from Jinzhong, Shanxi, Rongrong obtained her B.S. from Fudan University. While she was an undergraduate, Rongrong specialized in mammalian synthetic biology. She has worked on engineering transmembrane binary logic in eukaryotic cells as well as the design and construction of a NIMPLY promoter, a synthetic bifunctional transcription framework in mammalian cells. 

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Chuqi Lu, Rotation Graduate Student (Chem)

B.E., Peking University, 2021
Email: clu3@caltech.edu

Originally from Beijing, Chuqi obtained her B.E. in Materials Science from Peking University. During her undergraduate studies, Chuqi explored various topics including carbon nanotubes, OFET and self-assembled proteins. She became extremely fascinated by the beauty of proteins so she focused her undergraduate studies on amyloid fibrils, which cause neurodegenerative diseases, and potential drug targets.