Designer Glycans

Making and Breaking Cell Walls with Precision

The Team

Current group members and Alumni of the Designer Glycans lab

Dr. Cătălin Voiniciuc – Associate Professor Horticultural Sciences Department, UF

🔊 (kuh-tuh-leen voi-NEE-chook)

Education: Ph.D., (RWTH Aachen University, Germany), M.Sc. and B.Sc. (UBC, Vancouver, Canada)

About me: My research in Vancouver (Canada)Jülich (Germany) and Versailles (France) identified novel cell wall genes using Arabidopsis seed mucilage mutants. After moving to Düsseldorf in May 2016, I applied yeast Synthetic Biology (SynBio) to reconstruct plant polysaccharides. From January 2019 to February 2022, I led an independent research group at IPB Halle to gain further mechanistic insight into the synthesis of matrix polysaccharides. In March 2022, I joined the University of Florida to lead its Plant SynBio efforts and further the Designer Glycans mission.

Outside the lab: exploring Florida and sports

Madalen Robert – Ph.D. Student (IPB Halle, Germany and DAAD Visiting Scholar)

Education: M.Sc. (Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg), B.Sc. (Westphalian University of Applied Sciences)

About me: My Bachelor focused on the development of technical innovation based on various biological phenomena. Here I discovered my passion of using nature to solve relevant technological issues. Therefore, I studied molecular biosystems during my M.Sc. in order to understand complex biological processes on a system level to allow their specific alteration for various purposes. Now, I am happy to pursue my passion for the understanding of nature’s work-principles, by studying carbohydrate binding modules (CBM) as tools for designer cell walls.

Talia Jacobson – Ph.D. Student (Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology program)

Education: B.Sc. in Genetics (Purdue University)

About me: My B.Sc. degree involved work in a Drosophila developmental genetics lab followed by soybean breeding experience, where I became interested in plant molecular biology and how data science can be utilized to solve biological problems. This inspired me to pursue an opportunity with Bayer Crop Science where I developed machine learning models that analyzed corn genomic and environmental data to predict yield. This solidified my research interests in genetics and functional genomics, biotechnology, and computational biology. As a Ph.D. student, I hope to combine the skills gained during my undergraduate research to tackle questions revolved around polysaccharides in the cell wall. 

Outside the Lab: violinist, runner/swimmer

R. Logan Spicer – Research Assistant (and future PhD student)

Education: B.Sc Biological Sciences (Rowan University), M.Sc. (University of Minnesota)

About me: During my B.Sc. I began researching the tropical urban rainforests of Puerto Rico through summer internships with the U.S. Forestry Service then transitioned to more lab-based research studying phytoplankton in local reservoirs to help predict harmful algal blooms. For my M.Sc. I transitioned into plant breeding and genetics focusing on molecular genetics. By happenstance I began researching novel gene editing techniques in fruit crops (apples & grapes). This project was pivotal in guiding my research interest into molecular biology, biotechnology, and practical research. From my past experiences I noticed the beneficial potential of plants and began to appreciate their role in our world. I am confident as a Ph.D. student I will develop the skills needed to participate in creating and designing new plant products for various fields with endless real-world applications.

Samarth Raipal –  OPS Automation Assistant and Masters Student (Computer Science)

Education: Bachelor of Technology (Vellore Institute of Technology, Chennai, India)

About me: I am a Computer Science master’s student at the University of Florida with a strong interest in Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Statistics, Web, and Android Development. I have experience in various programming languages and frameworks, including Python, TensorFlow, Scikit, and Django, and has completed several projects in image compression, heart beat classification, and cryptocurrency prediction. I have also completed training programs in Google Cloud Big Data and Machine Learning and Introduction to Cyber Security Tools and Cyber Attacks, as well as certifications and workshops related to Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and Ethical Hacking.

Outside the Lab: In my free time, I enjoy staying active through exercise and playing sports.

Want to design glycans with us?

If you are interested in plant synthetic biology or plant cell walls and want to be part of our scientific success stories, please contact Dr. Voiniciuc about current opportunities in Gainesville, Florida. For full consideration, your email to cvoiniciuc [at] should detail your motivation, prior experience and CV.

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