The Team

Current group members and Alumni of the Designer Glycans lab

Dr. Cătălin Voiniciuc – Associate Professor

Since 2022.03 – Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida
2019.01 – 2022.02 – Independent Junior Research Group Leader (IPB Halle, Germany)
2016.04 – 2018.12 – Research Associate (University of Düsseldorf, Germany)

Education: Ph.D., summa cum laude (RWTH Aachen University, Germany), M.Sc. (University of British Columbia, Canada), B.Sc., with distinction (UBC)

About me: My research in Vancouver (Canada)Jülich (Germany) and Versailles (France) identified novel regulators of polysaccharide structure using Arabidopsis seed mucilage mutants. After moving to Düsseldorf in May 2016, I developed a synthetic bology approach to study plant mannans in yeast. From January 2019 to February 2022, I ran 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: family activities, football/soccer

Madalen Robert – Ph.D. Student (IPB Halle, Germany)

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

Undergraduate Students

We mentor and empower undergraduate researchers from several colleges.

Lianna Larson – B.Sc. Student (Biological Engineering)

About me: I plan to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering. I hope to work in the field of biofuels to help progress the work done already. I also hope to conduct more research and get more hands-on experience during my time at UF. 

Outside the Lab: I love reading fiction books, playing games with my friends, and listening to music. I also like playing basketball and lacrosse. 

Elyse Winne – B.Sc. Student (Microbiology & Cell Sciences)

About me: I am a third year B.Sc. student interested in using microorganisms as models for solving relevant issues in society. In the future I plan on completing an M.Sc. and working on biological research in industry. Throughout my lab experiences of my undergraduate degree, I am hoping to narrow down which topics I am passionate about.

Outside the Lab: I enjoy concerts, video games and hanging out with my chihuahua.

Julia Moncrieff – B.Sc. Student (Biology)

About me: I am currently a student in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida studying biology and I hope to have a future career in research. I grew up in the Clearwater area surrounded by the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and have always had a passion for marine science and working with all types of marine organisms. I studied at an oceanography camp before entering high school and fell in love with research. I pursued my biotechnicians assistant certificate as a result, and I am now excited to be studying biology at the collegiate level as part of the Designer Glycans lab.

Outside the Lab: When I am not working in the lab I love to read. I also work as a volunteer scuba diver for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and as a rescue scuba diver for the Florida Aquarium.

Alexa Young – B.Sc. Student (Microbiology & Cell Sciences)

About me: I’m a first year Microbiology and Cell Science B.Sc. student, minoring in Bioinformatics. I’m interested in learning more about the field of genetics, especially gene splicing and genetic engineering. I hope to pursue higher education and a career in genetic research.

Outside the Lab: I enjoy reading books and listening to music. I also like to skate and hope to learn ice dance in the future.


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 should detail your motivation, prior experience and CV.

Students (undergraduate or graduate) are accepted on a rolling basis and should express their interest to Dr. Voiniciuc via cvoiniciuc [at] ufl.edu.

December 2019 Lab Photo – Julian, Catalin, Annika, Bo, Christine, Benita and Stefanie