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Students Share Ideas and Connect with Industry Leaders at Research Retreat

Keck Graduate Institute’s 12th Annual Research Retreat on campus, Friday, Jan. 27, was not your average science fair. In place of lemons powering light bulbs, the students at KGI are helping to solve real-world problems. They are not just learning in theory, but also in practice.

Student research posters with a cohesive corporate look adorned the walls and featured titles like “Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Modeling of Flow in Hollow Fiber Tangential Flow (HFTFF) and Alternating Tangential Flow (HFATF) Filtration of a Perfusion Bioreactor.”

Students, appearing professional and poised, were confident and excited about their projects and presentations. During the poster session, students explained their research, as guests listened while they walked around perusing posters. An intellectual effervescence filled the room, with guests sharing thoughts about student research efforts.

Industry guest speakers included: Dr. Seongjoon Koo, director, corporate R&D, Encore Capital Group; Gordon Vehar, vice president of research, BioMarin Pharmaceutical; and Jon Coffman, global head of innovation, technology, Boerhringer Ingelheim. Each shared research and advice with attendees.

In addition, PhD students Kevin Kim, Leeor Zilbermintz, Michael De La Cruz, Sonali Talele, Andres Burns, Flaka Radoniqi, and post-doctoral associate Stephanie Parker each formally talked about their recent research.

The attendees were locked in focus, and the room was silent as speakers shared. The talks caused a volley of ideas and questions during the closing Q & A sessions. These final sessions again ignited thought, helping students and faculty expand on their plans for future research.

The striking motif of the event was connection—among attendees, research, and ideas in general. Industry speakers were engaged for the event specifically because their companies sponsor PhD and other research opportunities for KGI students.

In addition to existing business relationships among attendees, there was a family connection. During the poster session, keynote speaker Gordon Vehar joined his son, Kevin Vehar, in front of his own research poster. Kevin is a bioprocessing PhD student at KGI. Father and son discussed the content of the poster and posed for a quick photo.

During his talk, Gordon Vehar joked, “Kevin gave me some hard arm twisting over the holidays to get me to come.” When asked about his father’s comment, Kevin admitted he did indeed twist his father’s arm, but he knew his father’s talk would bring value to KGI students. He said, “He does break it down.”

Emphasizing the connection theme, Kevin explained that while other academic programs are more individually focused, KGI is collaborative because so is industry.

Gordon Vehar expanded on collaboration. He talked about his early industry work experience and said that when his relatively small team made a research discovery, their names were recognized together. Even though the novel group recognition might have been awkwardly received, Vehar knew it marked the “end of the day of an individual scientist making a discovery.” He emphasized that in biotechnology, teamwork is essential.

Gordon Vehar closed his presentation with a powerful message to the audience: “Progress will happen. You will not only witness it, you will enable it.”

This year’s research retreat proved that KGI students are not only capable of shaping future progress, but that they have already been successful at enabling progress, beginning right here at KGI.


  1. Do You See It Clearly? (Dr. Seongjoon Ko)
  2. Ion Partitioning in Mucosa and other Hydrogels (Dr. James D. Sterling)
  3. Computational Analysis of MicroRNA: Target Prediction in Prostate Cancer (Angélica Paola Hernández-Pérez)
  4. The Effects of Host-Oriented Drugs in Battling Microbes (Kevin Kim)
  5. Cross-Inhibition of Pathogenic Agents and the Host Proteins They Exploit (Leeor Zilbermintz)
  6. A Genome-Wide CRISPR/dCas9 Mediated Transcriptional Activation Search for Cancer Drug Resistance Genes (Michael De La Cruz)
  7. Machine Learning Approaches for Predicting Physical Interactors of Huntington Disease Protein (Sonali Talele)
  8. Future Trends in Emerging Therapeutics (Gordon Vehar)
  9. Characterization of a 3D Matrix Bioreactor for Scaled Production of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (Andrew Burns
  10. Future Trends in Biomanufacturing (Jon Coffman)
  11. Design and Computational Fluid Dynamics Characterization of Residence Time Distribution in Continuous Flow Reactor for Low pH Viral Inactivation (Stephanie Parker)
  12. CFD Modeling of Fluid in Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF) and Alternating Flow Filtration (ATF) in Perfusion Bioreactor (Flaka Radoniqi)


  1. Ion-specific effects on proteoglycan viscosity and mucosal electrostatics, Q.C. Zhang and J.D. Sterling
  2. Graphene-based Biosensors for Biomolecules Detection, K. Aran
  3. LncRNA SPRIGHTLY acts as an intra-nuclear organizing hub for pre-mRNA necessary for melanoma development, B. Lee, A. Sahoo, J. Marchica, E. Holzhauser, X. Chen, J.L. Li, T. Seki, S. Govindarajan, M. Batish, S.T. Lokhande, S. Zhang, A. Ray, and R. J. Perera
  4. A genome-wide CRISPR/dCas9 mediated transcriptional activation search for cancer drug resistance genes, M. De La Cruz, P. Amiri, S. Leguizamon, and A. Ray
  5. The expression of Bacillus anthracis antigens in Nicotiana benthamiana, E. Henderson, C. Adams, M. Martchenko, and L. Grill
  6. The effects of host-oriented drugs in battling microbes, K. Kim, A. Levitin and M. Martchenko
  7. Cross-Inhibition of Pathogenic Agents and the Host Proteins They Exploit, L. Zilbermintz, W. Leonardi, S. H. Tran, J. Zozaya, A. Mathew-Joseph, S. Liem, A. Levitin, and M. Martchenko
  8. Utilizing Fluorescent Ubiquitin Cell Cycle Indicators to Identify and Target Quiescent Cells for Novel Cancer and Cardiac Therapies, L. Patam and A. Zambon
  9. Protective Effects of a Brain-Penetrating Biologic TNF-alpha Inhibitor in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease, R. Chang, J. Knox, J. Chang, J. Woods, A. Derbedrossian, V. Vasilevko, D.H. Cribbs, R. Boado, W.M. Pardridge, and R. Sumbria
  10. Interactions of murine red blood cells and brain microvascular endothelial cells, R. Chang, J. Castillo, R. Benson, J. Wood, K.-L. Yee, R. Patel, M.J. Fisher, and R. Sumbria
  11. Modeling and Binding Site Characterization of Small Molecule Inhibitors of HPV16, J.L. Krstenansky and S. Kolluru
  12. Machine learning model of the Huntington’s disease Integrome reveals a novel connection to chromosome condensation mechanisms, S. Talele, Z Ye, G. Sop-Kamga E, M. De La Cruz, B. Patra, S. Chatterjee, A. Gupta, S. Koo, M.I. Phillips, and A. Ray
  13. Characterization of a 3D matrix bioreactor for scaled production of human mesenchymal stem cells, A.B. Burns, C. Doris, K. Vehar, C. Bardliving, M.I. Phillips, and P. Shamlou
  14. miRNA profiling of glutamine synthetase gene knockout (GSKO) CHO cell lines expressing a lysosomal protein, I. M. Amadi, P. Shamlou, C. Bardliving, J. LeBowitz, T. Christianson, V. Agrawal
  15. Large-Scale Manufacturing Platforms for Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) Vector Production, J. J. Aponte
  16. Computational Fluid Dynamic Design of a Novel Single-Use Airlift Perfusion Bioreactor for Mammalian Cells Using Internal Gravity Settling, C. Doris, C. Bardliving, A. Abedijaberi, P. Shamlou
  17. Development of a Platform Process for Pichia Pastoris for expression of insulin based molecules, A. Escalante, C. Bardliving, and P. Shamlou
  18. Evaluation of a robust and simple UV spectroscopic method for in-line measurement of monoclonal antibody aggregation in continuous bioprocessing operations, J. Miller, R. Orozco, C. Bardliving, A. Abedijaberi, P. Shamlou, and J. Coffman
  19. CFD Modeling of Fluid in Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF) and Alternating Flow Filtration (ATF) in Perfusion Bioreactor,F. Radoniqi, A. Abedijaberi, C. Bardliving, S. Wang, P. Shamlou, and J. Coffman
  20. Computational fluid dynamic study of liquid chromatography for purification of emerging cell therapies, K.C. Vehar, C. Bardliving, A. Abedijaberi, P. Shamlou
  21. Design and computational fluid dynamics characterization of resident time distribution in continuous flow reactor for low pH viral inactivation, S. Parker, R. Orozco, L. Amarikwa, S. Godfrey, S. Godfrey, J. Coffman, P. Shamlou, C. Bardliving
  22. Point of care diagnosis of Dengue and Zika virus infections in limited resource settings, R. Murthy Sakamuri, H. We Lu, K. Shreman, T. Brunson, A. Niemz
  23. Paper-based isothermal amplification of Dengue and Zika RNA, K. Sherman, T. Brunson, R. Murthy Sakamuri, A. Niemz