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Our Team

Post Doctoral Scholars

Sema (Sam) Sevimli
PhD, Chemical Engineering
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
BSc, Chemistry
Hacettepe University
Ankara, Turkey
Komen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow

Sema received her PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia in 2013. She carried out her postgraduate research in the facilities of the Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design (CAMD) and the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) under the joint supervision of Prof Thomas P. Davis, Prof Volga Bulmus and Dr Sharon Sagnella. Her PhD project entailed the design, synthesis and characterization of stimuli-responsive cholesterol-derived ionic copolymer systems that would enhance the intracellular delivery of therapeutics specifically to tumour cells. In 2014, Sema joined Vanderbilt University the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering as a postdoctoral research scholar for Prof. John T. Wilson. Her current position involves developing polymeric systems that enhance the efficacy of small molecule adjuvants and biologics for cancer immunotherapy. 

Feng Qiu
PhD, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Sichuan University,Chengdu, China
MS, Molecular Genetics
Sichuan University
BS, Biotechnology
Sichuan University

Dr. Feng Qiu is a visiting scholar from China. He received his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Sichuan University, where he now works as an associated research fellow, carrying out research works in the field of self-assembling peptide nanomaterials. In Wilson’s group, his project focuses on polymer-peptide conjugates and self-assembling peptide systems as novel materials for epitope-focused vaccine design. 

Graduate Students

Dan Shae
M.Eng, Chemical Engineering
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY
BS, Materials Science
Cornell University

Dan is a 2nd year ChBE graduate student. His current research interests are the development of stimuli-responsive polymeric vesicles and combination delivery of novel adjuvants and antigens.


Dan's very private. You already know too much about him.

Max Jacobson
BSE, Chemical Engineering
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ

Max Jacobson completed his undergraduate education at Princeton University for Chemical and Biological Engineering in 2013. While there, he worked as a researcher for the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) practicum, the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) undergraduate research program, and Dr. Brangwynne’s soft living matter group. In addition to research, he worked as a student consultant for the new media center, played French horn for the university orchestra, and coached amateur musicians for the New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS). Since graduating Princeton, he has matriculated at Vanderbilt University to pursue a Ph.D in Chemical and Biomolecular engineering while conducting research in Professor Wilson’s lab on developing novel materials for the delivery of immunotherapeutics. In his spare time Max enjoys playing and listening to classical music, baking, and solving puzzles.

Frances Knight
MSc, Immunology & Global Health, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, IRL
BS, Biomedical Engineering
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN

Frances is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering  program. As an undergraduate at Purdue, Frances worked with Alyssa Panitch on polymeric nanoparticles to deliver anti-inflammatory drugs for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Her master's research focused on using recombinant protein engineering to elucidate the function of enzymes produced by Aspergillus fumigatus. Frances has also worked as an intern at MED Institute, where she studied drug coatings for anti-restenotic stents, and at Akina, Inc., where she worked on synthesis of polymers for biomedical applications . Her current work is focused on nanoparticle vaccines against respiratory infections, such as tuberculosis and influenza. She has an avid interest in applying her research to low-income areas, and is pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Global Health. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, playing volleyball, trying new restaurants, and watching Netflix with her cat.

KMG Headshot.tiff
Kyle M. Garland
Ph.D. Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

B.S. Bioengineering

Lehigh University
Bethlehem, PA
Love Your Mellon /

Kyle Garland was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up on Cape Cod. His interest in science and engineering began during his time at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. Kyle’s passion for engineering led him to Lehigh University, where he studied Bioengineering with a focus in Biopharmaceutical Engineering. While in Pennsylvania, Kyle worked as a teaching assistant, a tutor for the Chemistry Department, and a laboratory researcher in both the Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Departments.


Kyle continued his research through various summer internships, including the Biosystems Dynamics Summer Institute. His work there resulted in the development of a novel mycolic acid assay that characterized the cell penetration and biofilm degradation involved in bacteriophage propagation mechanisms. Kyle also spent a summer working as a laboratory research assistant on the west coast of Ireland at NUI Galway, where he assisted graduate students with their ongoing projects in biomechanical engineering.


While pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Vanderbilt University, Kyle is conducting research under the direction of Dr. John Wilson. His research focuses on developing novel cancer immunotherapeutics. Kyle has played for Vanderbilt's Division II ice hockey team and in his spare time, he enjoys intramural sports, grilling, and hiking with his miniature black lab, Max.

Carcia Carson
M.Sc. Physics
Fisk University
Nashville, TN
B.S. Physics
Jackson State University
Jackson, MS
NSF Graduate Research Fellow

Carcia Carson is a doctoral student and NSF graduate fellow in the department of biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University. She was born and raised in Jackson, Ms, where she earned a B.S. in physics from Jackson State University in 2014. In 2016, she received her master’s degree in physics through the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program. Her master’s research focused on fabrication, characterization, and application of piezoelectric nanoneedles for stimuli-responsive transfection. She is currently working in Professor Wilson’s lab on engineering cancer vaccines for personalized immunotherapy.

Christian graduated from the University of Alabama is 2015 with a degree in Biochemistry. During his undergraduate education, he worked as a researcher under Shanlin Pan developing surface modification strategies for alternative energy. After graduation, he spent a year working at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio studying synaptogenesis and neurodevelopment under Gek-Ming Sia before coming to Vanderbilt. Now, he is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Wilson Lab focused on developing environmentally-responsive RIG-I agonists and nucleic acid carriers to enhance immunotherapy responses.  

Christian Palmer
B.S. Biochemistry
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL

Undergraduate Researchers


Anna Caldwell
ChBE Junior

Anna is is from Gulf Breeze, Florida and is a Chemical Engineering major with minors in Chemistry, Materials Science, and Engineering Management. She will graduate in 2017, and plans to enter industry. Anna joined the Wilson Lab in the Fall semester of 2014 and has been working under the supervision of graduate student Dan Shae on RAFT-synthesis of novel polymers for drug delivery. This summer she will study and research abroad in Beijing, China. She is an officer of Phi Sigma Rho, a sorority for engineers, and enjoys dancing and reading in her spare time.

Khloe Gordon
ChBE Junior

Khloe is from Waterman, IL and is a Chemical Engineering major with a focus in biotechnology and a double minor in chemistry and biology. She joined the Wilson Lab in Fall of 2014 and her interests include drug design and delivery, biomaterials, and cancer immunotherapy. She is working with graduate student Max Jacobson on the development of nanoparticles for delivery of nucleic acid adjuvants. She plans to apply to a PhD program after completing her Bachelor’s Degree at Vanderbilt. Outside of research and academics, she enjoys participating in Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science, drawing and making pottery, taking dance classes, and exploring the Nashville music scene.


Duncan Morgan
ChBE Junior
VUSRP 2015

Duncan is from Woodstock, GA, and is majoring in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry with a minor in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. As part of the Vanderbilt Summer Research Program (VUSRP), Duncan joined the Wilson Lab in the summer of 2015 and began work on the development of a layer-by-layer polymer film capable of enhancing the delivery of its associated cargo to a cell's cytosol. In his free time, Duncan volunteers with Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science, competes in bar trivia with his friends, and is training to run a half marathon. After he graduates in May of 2017, Duncan plans to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in chemical engineering.  

Ellie Reynolds
BME Junior

Ellie is from Dallas, Texas and is a Biomedical Engineering major. She is very interested in pursuing the smaller scale applications of biomedical engineering, which fueled her desire to contribute to the research in the Wilson Lab. She is particularly fascinated by the intersection of chemical and biomedical engineering with the field of immunology, and hopes to pursue a career path that centers on the development of immunotherapy methods in combination with biomedical technology. Outside of engineering, Ellie plays volleyball for Vanderbilt Women's Club Team and serve as an executive officer in both Pi Beta Phi sorority and Manna Project International, a service organization that focuses its efforts in Central and South America. 


Harrison Paul
ChBE Senior
VUSRP 2014

Harrison is from Atlanta, Georgia and is a Chemical Engineering senior. Harrison was the first undergraduate to join the Wilson Lab in the Spring of 2014, charactering the growth of polymer thin films using quartz crystal microbalance dissipation at VINSE. Harrison continued his work in the lab the summer of 2014 with support from the Vanderbilt Undergraduate Summer Research Program (VUSRP). Harrison is interning at Roche Diagnostics in Indianapolis this summer and will continue to work on thin films next academic year. After graduation, Harrison is planning to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D.


Lab Alumni

Gilda Naka
ChBE Honors Program
B.E., Chemical Engineering
Vanderbilt University
Current: Johnson Matthey 

Gilda is from Huntsville, AL and received her Honors B.E. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering from Vanderbilt in 2015. During her time in the Wilson lab, she worked on creating layer-by-layer assembly films via the deposition of "smart" polymers on on planar silicon substrates and microparticles. She characterized the films using ellipsometry and profilometry and the particles using DLS and zeta potential. Gilda accepted a full-time position as chemical engineer for Johnson Matthey in their Precious Metal Products Division, and she plans on pursuing graduate studies in the near future. 

Katie Bumila
NSF Summer REU 2014
B.S., Chemical Engineering
Worchester Polytechnic Institute, Worchester, MA
Current: Graduate School, University of Michigan, Chemical Engineering

Katie is from Taunton, MA and received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with Minor in Biochemistry from Worchester Polytechnic Institute in Spring of 2015. At WPI she was also a member of the varsity softball team. Katie was an NSF Nanoscience & Engineering REU in the Wilson Lab during the summer of 2014. During her REU experience, Katie worked closely with graduate student Max Jacobson to synthesize and characterize a novel library of polymers for intracellular delivery of immunostimulatory nucelic acids. For her work, she received the Best Poster Award at the REU poster session for which she was awarded an opportunity to present her work at the AIChE Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA. Katie is attending graduate school at the University of Michigan in Fall 2015. 

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