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Meet the Team
Sarkis K. Mazmanian, Ph.D., is the Luis & Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology in the Division of Biology & Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles, where Dr. Mazmanian also received his doctoral training in microbiology and immunology. Dr. Mazmanian was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School. His laboratory at Caltech studies the human gut microbiome with a focus on developing novel therapies for immunologic and neurologic disorders, including Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Mazmanian has been a principal investigator on 13 NIH grants, and numerous foundation and industry-sponsored projects. His research accomplishments have been recognized through many awards, including a Searle Scholarship, Damon Runyon Innovation Award, Catalyst Award (UCLA), Discover Magazine’s “Best Brains in Science under 40”, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award, and the DuPont-Danisco Microbiome Science Award. He is a founder of 3 biotech companies and serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of over a dozen companies, academic centers, and not-for-profit foundations. Most importantly, Dr. Mazmanian has trained numerous students and fellows who have gone on to successful independent careers in academia, industry, and medicine.
Joseph Boktor, is a second year graduate student in the department of Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology. He was an honors graduate from Johns Hopkins University, where he received a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Joseph has conducted research under the supervision of Narutoshi Hibino, M.D. Ph.D., Matt Thomson, Ph.D., and Sarkis Mazmanian, Ph.D. In 2016, Joseph joined the Hibino Lab where he contributed to the development of novel cardiac tissue engineering and 3D bioprinting approaches. This work has generated proofs of concept for molecular gene-therapy of arrhythmia on 3D cardiac tissues as well as de novo fabrication of 3D cardiac tissues for therapeutic applications. Joseph became a member of the Caltech Mazmanian Lab in 2017 to study the effects of the gut microbiota on the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders. In this time, he has contributed to numerous projects ranging from interrogation of a microbial metabolite on anxiety behaviors in mice to computational analysis of the Parkinson’s disease gut metagenome for biomarker discovery. Current primary research interests include exploration of microbial influences on host metabolic and immune systems, environmental bioremediation, and microbial protein engineering.
Matt Thomson, Ph.D., received his B.A. in Physics and Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard University. His graduate work focused on mathematical and data analysis methods for modeling complex regulatory networks in biology. Following his PhD, Dr. Thomson led an independent research group at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as a UCSF Fellow where he developed mathematical methods for modeling cell fate regulatory networks and tissue self-organization. His group has developed machine learning and mathematical modeling methods used by the ENCODE and human cell atlas projects. His differential geometry methods for model inference have been applied to train large language models (LLMs) and led to the founding of Yurts AI, a venture funded Bay Area software company, that is now deploying his LLM training algorithms for customers including the US Army and Nvidia. Dr. Thomson’s work has been recognized with a Packard Fellowship, the Merrimack Prize in Systems Biology, an NIH Early Independence Award, an NIH transformative R01, and an NIH Award for innovative technologies in Cancer Research. In addition to research, Dr. Thomson teaches courses in computational biology and mathematical biology at Caltech. Dr Thomson also strongly support scientific education at the secondary level and the group has developed a variety programs at UCSF and Caltech that integrate high-school students into university research.
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