Student & Postdoc Association (SPA)

EBRC's Student and Postdoc Association (SPA) represents many of the best and the brightest in our field, and are an important part of the EBRC community. SPA membership is open to all interested students and postdocs in EBRC.

Contact the Executive Committee at if you are interested in getting involved.

Alex Westbrook (Northwestern/Cornell, President) is a fifth year Ph.D. student at Cornell in the Lucks Lab at Northwestern. She uses RNA regulators to construct control feedback circuits in cell-free systems. Previously, Alex served as a SynBERC industry liaison helping to organizing the Mentorship Program.


Cassandra Barrett (ASU, Secretary) is a third year graduate student in Dr. Karmella Haynes' lab at Arizona State University. She is developing engineering strategies to open chromatin in mammalian genomes. Cassandra is responsible for organizing e-mail lists, taking meeting notes, and acting as the board historian.

Bon Ikwuagwu (Northwestern, Treasurer) is a PhD student in the Tullman-Ercek Lab at Northwestern University. He is working on developing methods to engineer virus-like particles for applications in drug delivery. Bon is serving in his first year on the SPA board as Treasurer, and is responsible for the budget.
Khalid K. Alam (Northwestern, Industry Liaison) is a postdoctoral fellow in the Lucks Lab at Northwestern University and cofounder of ChiTownBio, Chicagoland’s community biology lab. His research is focused on evolving and engineering RNA, and making it easier for others to do the same. As an industry liaison, Khalid is helping to coordinate site visits at EBRC retreats and fostering opportunities between industry members and the students and postdocs of EBRC. 
Paul Carlson (Northwestern/Cornell, Industry Liaison) is a fifth year PhD student in the Lucks Lab. He uses high-throughput RNA structure probing to study natural and engineered RNA systems. As part of the SPA, Paul is responsible for organizing events and programs with EBRC industry partners.
Anne d'Aquino (Northwestern, Diversity Liaison) is a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Michael Jewett at Northwestern University. She studies and engineers the ribosome with the goal of repurposing it for the synthesis of non-canonical polymers. Anne serves as the diversity liaison for the EBRC SPA. 
Kersh Thevasundaram (Berkeley, Mentorship Liaison) is a third year PhD student in Michelle Chang’s lab at UC Berkeley. He is investigating key enzymes in non-photosynthetic carbon fixation and applying this understanding to engineering both common and unconventional microbes for the production of target molecules from inorganic carbon sources. As part of the SPA, Kersh is responsible for managing the IAB-Student Mentoring program. 
Aaron Dy (MIT, Policy Liaison) is a PhD student in biological engineering at MIT. He uses synthetic biology in the labs of Jim Collins and Domitilla Del Vecchio to build better in vitro diagnostics and to understand new methods of biomolecular control within cells. Aaron is responsible for organizing SPA participation in EBRC policy initiatives. 

Christian Boehm

Christian Boehm (University of Cambridge, EU Liaison) Christian worked with Pam Silver (Harvard University) as an undergraduate and is now a PhD candidate with Jim Haseloff. Christian is Founder and Chair of the European Association of Students and Postdocs in Synthetic Biology (EUSynBioS), and responsible for developing transatlantic connections between young researchers in synthetic biology.

The SPA fosters interaction among postdocs, students, and PIs across EBRC labs and institutions. We also promote students’ professional development. Our executive committee oversees and plans our activities, often working closely with EBRC staff to coordinate events at conferences and retreats.

Everyone working in a EBRC-affiliated lab is considered a member of our community. We often invite outside guests and potential new collaborators. EBRC has a “big tent” policy that allows for a diverse and inclusive research community that shares the goal of advancing the field for maximum benefit to researchers, our industry partners, and the general public. Each student and postdoc is encouraged to participate in SPA activities and is eligible to serve in a leadership or organizational role.