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Pérez-Mercader Group


Principal Investigator

Dr. Pérez-Mercader
Dr. Juan Pérez-Mercader

Juan Pérez-Mercader () earned his Ph.D. from the City College of New York. He is an Elected Member of the International Academy of Astronautics and of the European Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1998 in Association with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, he founded Spain's Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) of which he was its first Director. He is the architect of Spain's current participation with infrastructure and instrumentation on board Mars Science Laboratory that arrived on Mars in August 2012. He is Profesor de Investigación in Spain's National Research Council (CSIC) and an External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. In 2010, he joined Harvard as a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and the university's Origins of Life Initiative, where he leads a project on the "Top-down Synthesis of an Ex-novo Chemical Artificial Living System".

Research Interests: Physics of Self-organizing Behavior, Information in Non-equilibrium Physico-chemical Systems, Chemical Computation, Origins of Life, Theoretical Biology and Life Detection.

Areas of Expertise: Quantum Field Theory, Dynamical Renormalization Group, Decoupling and Scaling Phenomena in Multiscale Systems, Information and Complexity in Chemical and Biological Systems, Micro-array Engineering, Communication Engineering, Astrobiology and Planetary Exploration


Repsol Project Team Research Associate

Dr.  Dueñas
Dr. Marta Dueñas

Marta Dueñas earned her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering in 2000 from the University of Valladolid (Spain). In 2004 she earned her Dr.Ing. (PhD) in Engineering Cybernetics from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim, Norway) in collaboration with Telemark University College, under the supervision of Prof. Bernt Lie. Thesis: "Population Balance Modelling and Passivity-Based Control of Particulate Processes, applied to the Silgrain® process". Marta has worked since then in industrial R&D groups in the Oil & Gas & Petrochemical sector, on various projects in the topics of advanced mathematical modelling, optimization and process control. Marta has collaborated with Prof. Pérez-Mercader's group since the Summer of 2011.

Research Associate

Dr. Bastakoti
Dr. Bishnu Bastakoti

Bishnu Bastakoti () has a Master of Science in Physical Chemistry from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and received his PhD degree from Saga University, Japan under a MEXT scholarship. He worked as a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow in National Institute for Materials Science, Japan. Prior to joining Prof. Juan Pérez-Mercader's group (May 2016), he spent one year in the University of Sydney, Australia as a Research Associate. Here, he is working on self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules to fabricate intelligent vesicles for investigating the origin of life.

Research Interests: Synthesis of Porous Nanomaterials, Block copolymers, Self-assembly, Micelles, Polymersomes, Origin of life.

Dr. Pereira de Souza
Dr. Tereza Pereira de Souza

Tereza Pereira de Souza () is a licentiate in Mathematics by the São Paulo State (IBILCE-UNESP) Brazil. She has obtained her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the Dept. of Biochemistry, University of São Paulo (USP, Brazil). Thesis: "The analysis of ionic properties in anionic and zwitterionic micelles or cationic vesicles systems: a mean field theoretical approach." Later she worked as a post doctoral fellow at Prof. Pier Luigi Luisi group at Dept of Biology (UNIROMA3 -Italy) developing an experimental approach to the synthesis of proteins inside lipid vesicles using cell-free protein systems. She also worked as post doctoral fellow in the Prof. Alfred Fahr group at Dept. of Pharmaceutical Technology (FSU-Jena, Germany), where she worked with the entrapment of protein and ribosome inside of liposome, as well interactions of polyelectrolyte-membranes, physical chemistry of fatty acid vesicles, and vesicle formation investigations by freeze fracture and cryo-TEM.

Research Interests: Micelles, Interaction of Ions and Interfaces, Membrane Reactivity, Interaction Protein - Membranes, Interaction Polymers - Membranes, Compartmentalization in Origin of Life, as well the use of lipid and polymer vesicles in Synthetic Biology for the development of minimal synthetic or semi-synthetic bio-systems, pre-biotical systems.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Dr. Berlanga
Dr. Isadora Berlanga

Isadora Berlanga () studied Chemistry at Universidad de Valencia. She received her Ph.D. in Chemistry at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in September of 2013 with the thesis: "Synthesis and Characterization of 0, 1 and 2D Nanomaterials". After her Ph.D., she joined the group of Prof. V. Fuenzalida at the Department of Physics, Universidad de Chile, where she worked as a postdoc on self-assembled monolayers, single-molecule magnets on a surface, as well as her own project, "Controlling the Surface Growth of Covalent Organic Frameworks on Functionalized Self-Assembled Monolayers". Isadora joined Prof. Juan Pérez-Mercader's group as a postdoc in September 2015.

Research Interests: Origins of life, synthesis of block copolymers vesicles, polymerization-induced self-assembly, self-oscillation systems driven by B-Z reaction.

Dr. Busupalli
Dr. Balanagulu Busupalli

Balanagulu Busupalli () had received his BSc and MSc degrees in Chemistry from Sri Venkateswara University, India and in May 2016 earned his PhD in Chemistry working on 'soluble layered materials' with Dr. B. L. V. Prasad at CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, India. Bala joined Prof. Pérez-Mercader's group in June 2016.

Research Interests: Self replicating polymersomes, Oscillatory chemical systems effected by B-Z reaction, Microfluidics, Nanomaterials and the Origin of Life.

Dr. Das
Dr. Debojyoti Das

Debojyoti Das () earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Chemistry from the Jadavpur University (India). In 2015 he was awarded his Ph.D. (Sci) from the same University where he worked under the supervision of Senior Professor Deb Shankar Ray in the Department of Physical Chemistry, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (India), for his thesis: "Study of Nonlinear Dynamics of Some Chemical Reactions and Reaction-Diffusion Systems". Debojyoti joined the PĂ©rez-Mercader group in March 2016.

Research Interests: Nonlinear dynamics of non-equilibrium chemical systems, reaction-diffusion systems, and the Belousov-Zhabotinsky oscillatory chemical reaction and its role in the polymerization of copolymers.

Dr. Guragain
Dr. Sudhina Guragain

Sudhina Guragain () earned her Masters Degree in Organic Chemistry from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and received her PhD degree in Colloidal Chemistry from Saga University, Japan. After receiving her PhD, she worked as a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at Kumamoto University and as a Postdoctoral Researcher in National Institute for Material Science, Japan. She is now working as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Professor Perez-Mercader's group, where she is working on the fabrication of polymeric vesicles and utilizing them as nano-reactors for oscillating chemical reaction for the investigation of origin of life.

Research Interests: Block Copolymers, Stimuli-Responsive Polymers, Self-Assembly, Micelles, Polymersomes, Nanomaterials, Origin of Life.

Dr. Hu
Dr. Yuandu Hu

Yuandu Hu () studied in Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan China and earned his PhD in June 2013, majoring in Polymer Chemistry and Physics. He focused mainly on the fabrication of functional soft materials (e.g. shape controllable microgels and stimulus-responsive photonic crystal microparticles) by combining microfluidic techniques and self-assembly of colloidal particles together. Prior to joining the Pérez-Mercader group in September 2014, he spent one year in the University of Notre Dame in Indiana as a postdoctoral research associate. His work at Notre Dame dealt mainly with the fabrication of Janus microgel particles and self-propelling materials to mimic mircoorganisms' motion behavior.

Research Interests: Origin of Life, Microfluidic Technology, Hydrogel Based Soft Materials, Self-assembly of Colloid Particles, Interface Phenomenon, Chemomehanical System, Unilamellar Vesicles, and Self-Oscillation System Driven by B-Z Reaction.

Dr. Ren
Dr. Kaixuan Ren

Kaixuan Ren () earned her Ph.D degree in polymer chemistry and physics from Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences in July 2015. Her research focused on the design and synthesis of polypeptide-based copolymers, fabrication of hydrogels as 3D scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering. She joined the Prof. Pérez-Mercader's group as a postdoctoral fellow in November 2015.

Research Interests: Synthesis of Amphiphilic Block Copolymers, Polymerization-Induced Self-Assembly, Giant Vesicles, Oscillating Chemical Reactions, Origins of Life.

Dr. Srivastava
Dr. Rohit Srivastava

Rohit Srivastava () received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University, Faizabad, India in 2005 and 2008, respectively. He received Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) in Chemistry from Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar University Agra, India in 2010 and after that he worked as a project fellow on UGC major research project at Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT), Allahabad, India. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Ranchi, India, in 2015, where he investigated "Self-organization and growth of nanostructured branched crystal pattern in Belousov-Zhabotinsky type chemical reactions". He spent more than one year as a Dr. DS Kothari Post-doctoral fellow at Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (IISc.), Bangalore India. Rohit joined Prof. Pérez-Mercader's group in June 2016.

Research Interest: Self-organization, Effect of noise on B-Z type oscillatory chemical reactions, DLA and spherulitic crystal pattern formation in nonequilibrium system, Polymer encapsulated functional nanomaterial's for biomedical applications, Protein-NPs interaction, Hollow sphere material synthesis and their electrocatalytic applications, Electrospun based nanofiber for biosensor applications and Origin of life.


Dr. Albertsen
Dr. Anders N. Albertsen

Anders N. Albertsen studied Chemistry at the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Pharmacy, University of Southern Denmark. He obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry at the Center for Fundamental Living Technology (FLinT) under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Pierre-Alain Monnard. The Ph.D. thesis, "Study of Replication Processes in Minimal Self-Replicating Systems", was defended in December 2013. Anders joined the Pérez-Mercader group in February 2014.

Research Interests: Self-Assembly, Vesicles, Micelles, Reverse Micelles, Nanoreactors, Reactivity of Membranes, Membrane Coupled Reactions, Encapsulated Reactions, Compartmentalization of Living Systems, the Origin of Life, and Synthetic Biology.

Dr. Gagnon
Dr. Jean-Sebastien Gagnon

J-S Gagnon received his Ph.D. in theoretical high energy physics from McGill University in 2007, where he worked on computing transport coefficients in hot gauge field theories under the supervision of S. Jeon. After his Ph.D. he joined the group of M. Shaposhnikov as a postdoc at EPFL to conduct research on baryogenesis. He later went for another postdoc in the group of J. Berges at TU Darmstadt (and later Heidelberg University), where he worked on non-equilibrium quantum field theory, transport coefficients and dark energy. A common theme of J-S' research is (equilibrium and non-equilibrium) field theory applied to problems in particle physics and cosmology. He is now applying field theory to chemical systems of the reaction-diffusion type that mimic some aspects of living systems. More specifically, he is applying dynamical renormalization group techniques to the study of fine-graining of those reaction-diffusion equations.

Research Interests: Equilibrium and nonequilibrium quantum field theory, the intersection of particle physics and cosmology (baryogenesis, dark energy), stochastic reaction-diffusion systems applied to synthetic living systems, multiscaling and multifractals.

Alberto P.
Dr. Alberto P. Muñuzuri

Alberto P. Muñuzuri earned his undergraduate degree in the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain where he completed his PhD. During his PhD he worked in different laboratories, Prof. V.I. Krinsky (INLN-CNRS, Nice, France), Prof. M. Marcus (Max Plank Institut, Dortmund, Germany), Prof. E. Hofer (Univ. of Graz, Austria). Following this, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Dept. at the Univ. of California at Berkeley (USA), group of Prof. L.O. Chua and later at the group of Prof. Epstein and Prof. Zhabotinsky at the Univ. of Brandeis (USA). He is a permanent professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain where he was the leader of the Group of Non Linear Physics for several years and has been collaborating with different scientific groups in Europe and America.

Research Interests: Spatio-temporal pattern formation in Complex Systems. Modelling biophysics. Autowaves, Turing structures, patterns in general. Hydrodynamic instabilities coupled with pattern-forming reactions. Decision making algorithms in robotics based in biological waves.

Scientific Computing Specialist

Alec Pawling
Dr. Alec Pawling

Alec Pawling () earned a Bachelors of Science in computer science from Truman State University and a Masters of Science and Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from the University of Notre Dame. He studied streaming algorithms as a Masters student and stream mining and data warehousing as a Ph.D. student. He previously worked as a data manager and system administrator for a physics research group.

Professional Interests: Parallel Programming, Computer Vision, System Administration, Web Development.

Program Administrator

Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley () studied psychology at Brandeis University. He spent many years as a corporate IT executive managing large and complex projects and teams.

Professional Interests: Transdisciplinary research projects that have the potential to have significant real world impact.