2021 Postdoctoral Research Awards

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2021 Postdoc awards

Five talented UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry scientists have been selected for the department’s 2021 Postdoctoral Research Awards.

Dr. Timothy (Tim) Atallah (Caram group), Dr. Marcus Gallagher-Jones (Rodriguez group), Dr. Yao He (Feigon/Zhou groups), Dr. Manisha (Mani) Swain (Kwon group), and Dr. Zhong Wan (Duan group) were chosen for the award from a highly competitive group of nominations. The awardees will be honored at a Departmental Awards Ceremony in the future.

Dr. Timothy (Tim) AtallahDr. Timothy (Tim) Atallah joined Professor Justin Caram’s group in 2017. In the Caram group he developed and implemented a novel form of time-correlated single photon counting which makes use of spectral interferometry in order to simultaneously spectrally and time-resolve emitted photons. “Tim is a fantastic experimentalist and consummate academic,” said Caram. “He is extremely resourceful, as good at programming and using new equipment as he is at resuscitating older methods and legacy electronics. He is also fascinated by first principles, whether it’s in learning quantum optics or in asking foundational questions in organic synthesis. Tim genuinely loves science, and likes teaching as much as he likes trying new things himself. Simply put, he makes an excellent colleague”.  Tim received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Calvin College (2011) and his M.Phil. (2015) and Ph.D. (2017) in chemical physics from Columbia University. He will start a faculty position at Denison University in the Fall of 2021.

Dr. Marcus Gallagher-JonesDr. Marcus Gallagher-Jones joined Professor Jose Rodriguez’s group in 2017. In the Rodriguez group he has developed pioneering methods in electron diffraction and determining important structures. “Everywhere he goes, Marcus makes a lasting positive impression on colleagues,” said Rodriguez. “He is highly regarded in our structural biology group, is an active member of our NSF-sponsored science and technology center. In short, Marcus is an outstanding colleague and an exceptional young scientist and leader”. Marcus received his bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Durham University (2010) and his Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics from the University of Liverpool (2015). While his Ph.D. was awarded by Liverpool, Marcus conducted his thesis work half-way around the world, at one of the most powerful X-ray lasers in the world – the Japanese X-ray free electron laser facility (XFEL) and synchrotron source (Spring-8). 

Dr. Yao HeDr. Yao He has been a joint postdoctoral fellow with Professor Juli Feigon and Professor Hong Zhou (UCLA Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics) since October 2017. In the Feigon group, Yao worked on structural biology of telomerase, a protein-RNA complex that maintains the ends of our chromosomes, called telomeres. Yao used cryoelectron microsocopy to determine a structure of telomerase with telomeric DNA bound at 3.3Å resolution, the highest resolution to date, as well as additional structures  for a total of four different steps in telomere repeat synthesis. Analysis of these structures provided the first atomic details of telomerase mechanism, a long sought goal, as well as fundamental insights into the roles of telomerase accessory proteins in assembly and activation. “Yao is one of the most brilliant and talented postdoctoral fellows I have had the pleasure of interacting with over my entire career,” said Feigon. “Yao can literally do everything, from NMR to cryoEM to modeling to biochemical work and he is an excellent writer and collaborator with other laboratory members.” Yao received his bachelor’s degree in biology (2011) and his Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology (2017) from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Science and Technology of China.

Dr. Manisha (Mani) SwainDr. Manisha (Mani) Swain joined Professor Ohyun Kwon’s group in 2018. In the Kwon group she has been engaged in the development of chemical reactions based on the cleavage of C(sp3)–C(sp2) bonds. In particular, through the conversion of the C(sp3)–C(sp2) bonds to C(sp3)–H linkages and alternative C(sp3)–C(sp2) single bonds, she has taken abundant starting materials from nature and turn them into “value-added” compounds that can have a broad impact on total synthesis and late-stage diversification of pharmaceuticals. “In her stay in my lab, Mani has achieved distinction through her outstanding scholarship, technical competence, and admirable citizenship. She has had three publications with me so far, and another is in the works,” said Kwon. “I have been thoroughly impressed by her intellect, competence as a scientist and character, and tremendously enjoyed working with her.” Mani received a Master of Science in Chemistry (organic chemistry) (2009) and bachelor of science degree in chemistry (2007) from Banaras Hindu University, India. She received her Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry (2016) from the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology in India. 

Dr. Zhong WanDr. Zhong Wan joined Professor Xiangfeng Duan’s group in 2018. His research in the Duan group research involves fundamental transport property studies of high-quality heterojunctions with various materials and dimensionalities. “Zhong is a highly innovative and dedicated postdoctoral scholar who has made important contributions to condensed matter physics, materials science and nanotechnology,” Duan said. “He has elegantly joined his unique background in condense matter physics with our expertise in new material development, and is driving our research into totally new directions and new heights. His research transcends the traditional disciplinary boundaries across chemistry, materials science and condense matter physics, and opens exciting new opportunities in emerging quantum information science.” Zhong received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Jilin University, P.R. China (2011) and his Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from Purdue University (2018).

Previous Postdoctoral Research Award Recipients

Since 1999, our postdoctoral researchers have been recognized with the annual MBI Boyer/Parvin Postdoctoral Awards. In 2018, the department established the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Departmental Postdoctoral Research Awards to further honor and recognize the tremendous work performed by our postdoctoral researchers.


Qin Cao (Eisenberg group

Lucía Fernández del Río (C. Clarke group)

Chuancheng Jia (Duan group)

Dennis Svatunek (Houk group) 


Evan Darzi (Garg group)

Zhaoyang Lin (Duan group)

Julia Stauber (Spokoyny group)

Yaqiang Wang (Feigon group)


Jonathan Axtell (Spokoyny group)

Marc Garcia-Borràs (Houk group)

Steven Jonas (P. Weiss group)

Yuan Liu (Duan group)

Duyoung Min (Bowie group)

Stefan Schmollinger (Merchant group)

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.