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Holland Lab | Grad Students and Postdocs
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Grad Students and Postdocs

Davit Alimbarashvili (PhD student)

Davit, a JDP student in his first year, commenced his academic venture at San Diego State University in Georgia. During an exchange program on the main campus, he engaged in research at Professor Douglas Grotjahn’s lab, concentrating on the palladium-catalyzed oxidative addition of nucleophiles to olefins. Having obtained his B.S. degree in 2022, he pursued a Ph.D. in Organometallic chemistry at San Diego State University within Professor Grotjahn’s research group. Subsequently, he transitioned to Professor Gregory Holland’s laboratory, redirecting his research interests toward understanding the synthesis of spider silk. In his spare time, he enjoys riding a motorcycle and travelling.

Kevin Chalek (Post-doc)

Kevin Chalek is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at San Diego State University. After getting his B.S. from the University of Miami in 2016, he attended the University of California, Riverside, getting his Ph.D. in Chemistry working in the lab of Len Mueller. His dissertation was titled “Using Solid-State Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to Relate Chemical Structure With the Function of Materials”. He is currently studying the relationship between the strength and structure of spider silk using solid-state NMR in Greg Holland’s lab.

Alexia de Loera (PhD student)

Alexia de Loera is a first year graduate student. She graduated with her BA in Chemistry from the University of San Diego in 2018. She went on to work for a CRO in Sorrento Valley and most recently works at Eli Lilly as an analytical chemist. In  Dr. Holland’s lab, she is working on characterizing silk peptides with protein solution NMR. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, baking and audiobooks.

hannah johnson smiling in front of trees

Hannah Johnson (PhD student)

Hannah is a 6th year JDP student focused on combining electron microscopy and protein solution NMR to study liquid-liquid phase separation of native spider silk proteins. She graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from UCLA in 2015 where she gained an interest in electron microscopy, then worked at Expedeon in Sorrento Valley testing precast gels for electrophoresis before returning to grad school to gain experience in protein structure characterization with NMR and cryoEM. When not in lab, she enjoys hanging out at the Del Mar dog beach with her pug, Bumble, and exploring the SD zoo with her nephews.

Ali Kiaeefar (PhD student)

Ali graduated with his MS degree in Analytical Chemistry from the Azad University of Mashhad, Iran in 2016. After graduation he worked in the detergent industry as a Chemist in the research and development department. In Prof. Holland’s lab, he is working on the the molecular structure and dynamics of complex biological and technologically relevant materials (spider silk). In his leisure time, he likes to try new hobbies to fulfill his life outside of work.

profile of yuan li smiling

Yuan Li (PhD student)

Yuan received her masters degree from Old Dominion University, where she worked in Dr. Jingdong Mao’s lab and studied the structure of natural organic matter such as soil, humic acid and kerogen with solid-state NMR. She then worked as an analytical chemist in the pharmaceutical industry in San Diego after graduation. In order to further her passion in research, she joined Holland’s group in Fall 2017 to study bioinspired nanoparticles with advanced NMR and other up-to-date analytical techniques.

John Malki (MS student)

John is an MS student on the analytical chemistry path with an interest in Alzheimer’s research. He was born and raised in Northern Virginia and graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University earning a B.S. in Chemistry as a first gen graduate. Originally he was on the pre-pharmacy track, but fell in love with research his freshman year while working at the VCU Pharmacology and Toxicology lab under Dr. Imad Damaj focusing on reversing the effect of paclitaxel on the Peripheral and Central Nervous System of chemotherapy patients using nicotine analogs. Some of his hobbies include cooking, playing sports, working out, trying new restaurants/food, traveling, and singing. Fun fact: He knows 3 languages.

Lado Shapakidze (PhD student)

Lado is a first year JDP student. He started his academic journey at San Diego State University in Georgia and then participated in the exchange program on the main campus, where he worked in Professor Gregory Holland’s lab on synthesis of mesoporous silica nanoparticles. After receiving his B.S. degree in 2022, he initially pursued a PhD in Organometallic chemistry at Rutgers University, and later transferred to SDSU, where he shifted his research focus to understanding the interactions between silica and hydroxyapatite nanoparticles with amino acids and peptides using Solid State NMR. Outside of his academic pursuits, he enjoys riding motorcycles, playing soccer, and spending time with his friends and cat, Sandro.