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Our TeamLearn more about the members in our research group.

Krishna Kumar, PhD

Principal Investigator

Prof. Kumar is Robinson Professor of Chemistry, was previously Chair of the Chemistry Department (2006-2009 and 2012-2018); Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts University and a Member of the Cancer Center of the Tufts Medical Center. His research is at the interface of Chemistry, Biology and Medicine. His research group uses chemical and biological methods to create novel and functional molecules that allow understanding the mechanism of, and/or control biological processes. The group has diverse interests spanning organic chemistry, biophysics, cell biology, imaging and medicinal chemistry. Current areas of interest span the origin of life, therapeutic molecule design for Type 2 diabetes, cancer, NASH, Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s disease, smoking cessation; penetration of peptide molecules through the gut and the Blood-Brain-Barrier (BBB) and in the development of novel antibiotics.

Jamie Liu, PhD

BS, San Jose State Univ.; PhD, Tufts University

Jamie was born in San Francisco but was raised in Hong Kong for the better part of her childhood before moving back to sunny California. She eventually received her B.S. in Biochemistry from San Jose State University, working under Marc d’Alarcao. When not sciencing, Jamie likes to travel, practice yoga, read and meditate. Her goal is to one day do a headstand on a beautiful beach and have her photo taken without putting her life at great risk. All seriousness aside, she has a keen interest in eating extremely spicy food and nothing makes her happier than a latte from a hipster coffee house.

Özge Ünsal, PhD

BS, Boğaziçi Univ.; PhD, Tufts University

Özge is from Istanbul, Turkey, and has traveled a great deal before joining the Kumar Lab at Tufts. She graduated from Boğaziçi University with a B.S. in Chemistry and participated in an exchange program in Canada. Besides being a chemist at heart, she has a passion for salsa dancing, playing violin and learning new languages. At the moment, she is working on sharpening her French and participating in yoga with her lab-mates. Nonetheless, her favorite thing to do is to watch the sunset and stroll in any beautiful city, including Boston.

Damla Surmeli

Graduate Student (B.S., Bilkent University)

Damla is a native from Ankara, Turkey and joined the Tufts Department of Chemistry in 2018. In her undergraduate years, she worked on total synthesis of fluoranthene derivatives. Currently, she is working on N-terminal modifications for GLP-1R and GIPR dual agonist. Outside the lab, she has a passion for cooking and plants.

Jake Cortigiano

Graduate Student (B.S., University of Connecticut)

Jake is a first-year graduate student in the Kumar Lab. He recently received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Connecticut, graduating with the class of 2019. Despite selling his soul to academia, he has the audacity to pursue extracurricular activities, such as playing the piano, designing shirts, and watching cartoons. He loves sea creatures, so if you know any feel free to send him pictures. One of his dreams is to own a pet octopus and train it to open jars.

Haley Anchukaitis

Graduate Student (B.S., St. Lawrence University)

Haley is from Wrentham, Massachusetts and received her B.S. in Chemistry with ACS Certification from St. Lawrence University in 2018. She joined the Tufts Chemistry Department in 2020 hoping to expand upon her knowledge of organic and medicinal chemistry. After a long day in lab, she enjoys going home to cook dinner and watch hockey. In her free time, she also enjoys swimming, hiking, and catching up on the latest Netflix shows with friends. Some of her favorite memories include skydiving and learning to surf while studying abroad in New Zealand.

Siyuan Xiang

Graduate Researcher (B.S., University of Delaware)

Siyuan is from China, but he went to University of Delaware for undergraduate study. He received his B.S in Chemistry in 2020. He used to work in a chemical biology lab for two and half years studying secondary structure of protein. In his undergrad, he was in the esport team for 2 years. In his free time, he likes to play video games and travel.

Tristan Dinsmore

Graduate Student (B.S., Connecticut College)

Tristan was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Newton, Massachusetts. Tristan is a new member to the Kumar lab and received his B.S. in Chemistry at Connecticut College. In his earlier years, Tristan completed three marathons resulting in three exciting medals and one bad knee. Consequently, Tristan now spends his time outside of research and academia enjoying the simpler things in life, like watching cartoons while laying down or playing fun games with friends.

Prithviraj Talukdar

Graduate Student (B.S., Macaulay Honors College)

Raj is a first year PhD student from Long Island NY. He graduated from Macaulay Honors College with a degree in Biochemistry. He hopes to better understand the mechanisms behind disease and develop better therapeutics. In his free time he takes care of his plants and box turtle Lenore. He also produces music on the side.

Vladislav Khamraev

Graduate Student

Vlad joined the group in a role of a Fulbright Visiting Scholar in the Fall 2021, continuing his reasearch as a graduate student. He received his master’s degree from Mendeleev University in 2017 under the guidance of Prof. Smushkevich. His primary research interest is focused on the development of novel methods for the synthesis of biologically active compounds. When not discovering new reactions, he learns new nursery rhimes, but eventually “can‘t remember the words to the song”.

Marina Spenciner

Graduate Student (B.S., Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

Marina was born in southern Massachusetts, but she enjoys visiting her family in Maine. She was a biochemistry major at WPI and gradutated in 2022. She likes being in the sun in the summer but is perpetually cold in the winter (which is only tolerable when she is skiing). She enjoys filling her apartment with plants, trying to learn different languages, and drawing abstract art when the mood strikes.

Selin Bacaksız

Undergraduate Researcher

Selin is a sophomore from Ankara, Turkey majoring in biochemistry at Tufts. She is interested in understanding medical problems and improving therapeutics on a molecular level. On campus, she is involved in playing the piano at the music department, and she is a fundraising director for the Women’s Higher Education Now club. When she finds time, Selin likes to make candles, spend time with her friends, and play with her dogs, Phoebe and Joey. She is looking forward to growing her plant collection and traveling in the future.

Alexandra Dobbins

Undergraduate Researcher

Alexandra is a Junior studying Biochemistry and Community Health from Bethesda, Maryland. In her free time, she is a member of the Tufts University Jackson Jills and Project Share. She loves to sing, dance, make fun of her twin brother, and facetime her two dogs, Stella and Murphy! Alex is excited to expand her knowledge of organic and medicinal chemistry during her time at Tufts.

Nikita Bhat

Undergraduate Researcher

Nikita is a sophomore from Bedford, New Hampshire majoring in chemistry and biotechnology. On campus, she is involved in the club gymnastics team, and she writes and illustrates for the Undergraduate Breakthrough Journal. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading fantasy novels, crocheting, and watching her favorite shows on repeat. Nikita is excited to expand upon her knowledge of organic and medicinal chemistry.

Vittorio Montanari, Ph.D.

Visiting Scientist

Dr. Vittorio Montanari is a Visiting Scholar at Tufts University. He oversees many projects in collaboration with the Kumar lab relating to peptide hormones that have the potential to ameliorate a large number of human conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and potentially Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Before Tufts, Vittorio earned a Ph.D. in organic and fluorine chemistry. He has extensive industrial organic synthesis experience. He is the cofounder of a company commercializing Tufts-patented technology, was a 2013 Mass Challenge finalist and served as the Chief Technology Officer for four years. He regularly runs marathons and hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon some day.