Instructors – 2019

James Chappell


BioSciences Department

James Chappell is an Assistant Professor of Biosciences at Rice University. His research focuses on forwarding our ability to understand and engineer the bacteria domain of life. Specifically, he is interested in understanding how the biomolecule RNA can be designed to create synthetic regulators of gene expression—allowing for the manipulation of natural cellular processes to elicit deeper biological understanding and for the engineering of new synthetic cellular functions. He received his Ph.D. from Imperial College London, where he studied the application of cell-free gene expression systems for synthetic biology. He then conducted postdoctoral research at Cornell and Northwestern University, where he focused on RNA synthetic biology. Amongst his research accomplishments are creating the first synthetic RNAs able to activate transcription in bacteria (a mode of regulation that is not found in nature), developing computational design approaches for RNA regulators and creation of novel of RNA-based genetic circuitry to implement sophisticated gene control. Past CSHL Contributions: Prof. Chappell was a course TA in 2015, and was an instructor in 2018. CSHL topic: Prof. Chappell will teach a module on expression of custom-built genetic circuits in cell-free transcription/translation systems (TX-TL) and the design of RNA-driven genetic pathways.

Elisa Franco


Department of Mechanical Engineering

Elisa Franco is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Riverside. Her research group works in the area of in vitro synthetic biology, with an interdisciplinary approach of experiments and mathematical modeling. Areas of interest include biomolecular oscillators, feedback systems, and responsive self-assembled materials. Elisa received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology under the supervision of Dr. Richard Murray. As a faculty member, she received a UC Regents fellowship, a Hellman fellowship, and an NSF CAREER award. Past CSHL contributions: Prof. Franco was an invited speaker in 2015, and was a course instructor in 2017 and 2018. CSHL topic: Prof. Franco will be teaching a module on formulation and validation of mathematical models for molecular circuits, primarily via ordinary differential equations. These techniques are particularly well suited to quantitatively describe gene circuits tested in the TX-TL platform.

Philip Romero


Department of Biochemistry

Philip Romero is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research group engineers proteins for applications in chemistry, bioenergy, biotechnology, and human health. Areas of interest include molecular modeling, high-throughput technology, and machine learning. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, where he performed protein engineering research with Frances Arnold. He then pursued postdoctoral studies at UCSF under the supervision of Adam Abate. Past CSHL contributions: Prof. Romero was an invited speaker in 2017. CSHL topic: Prof. Romero will be teaching microfluidics for high-throughput characterization of biological systems.

Michael Smanski


Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics
Biotechnology Institute

Mike Smanski is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His lab leverages new technology for DNA synthesis and assembly to interrogate and engineer the biosynthesis of structurally-diverse small molecules. Additionally, his lab is focused on developing new methods to rationally engineer diverse microbial species that have unique biological capabilities. Mike has been awarded the Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists in 2015 from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Past CSHL contributions: Prof. Smanski was an instructor in 2016. CSHL Topic: Prof. Smanski will teach …

Ophelia Venturelli


Department of Biochemistry

Ophelia Venturelli is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research program focuses on understanding and controlling the dynamics and functions of microbial communities and microbiomes using tools from synthetic biology and computational modeling. Dr. Venturelli received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, where she investigated the dynamics of a metabolic gene network in single-cells using a combination of experiment and computational modeling with Dr. Richard M. Murray. Dr. Venturelli joined the lab of Dr. Adam P. Arkin at UC Berkeley in Bioengineering as a Postdoctoral Fellow and studied resource allocation for metabolic engineering and the microbial interaction networks shaping the assembly of synthetic human gut microbiome communities. CSHL Topic: Dr. Venturelli will be teaching computational modeling of microbial communities and genetic circuits.