Roberts:People

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Susan C. Roberts

Sue is an associate professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also holds a position as the director of the UMass Amherst Institute for Cellular Engineering (ICE). She obtained her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1992 and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 1998.

Contact Information:
Email: sroberts@ecs.umass.edu
Sue's Current CV


Current Graduate Students


Rohan Patil completed his B.S. in Chemical engineering at University Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, India. He joined Roberts lab in 2008. The general aim of Rohan’s research is to better understand the heterogeneity in plant cell cultures, with a focus on elucidating the relationship between cell populations and paclitaxel accumulation in culture. He is presently working on the application of molecular approaches to characterize and manipulate Taxus metabolism in distinct cell subpopulations.

Email: patil@ecs.umass.edu
Rohan's Current CV


Whitney Stoppel completed her B.S. in Chemical Engineering with minors in Mathematics and Cell & Molecular Biology at Tulane University in 2008. Following an REU program in Cellular Engineering at UMass in 2007, Whitney chose to attend graduate school at UMass, continuing to work in the Roberts lab. She joined the Roberts lab in the fall of 2008, and is working on enhancing the growth and functionality of mammalian cells in 3-D constructs by tailoring mechanical and physiological properties within the device through a collaboration with Surita Bhatia, Kim Tremblay, and Al Crosby.

Email: wstoppel@ecs.umass.edu


Sarah Wilson completed her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Rowan University in the spring of 2009. She decided to attend graduate school at UMass to conduct research in cellular engineering and joined the Roberts group in the fall of 2009. Sarah's focus is on characterizing novel genes involved in paclitaxel production with an overall goal to enhance the accumulation and production of paclitaxel in Taxus cell cultures through agrobacterium-mediated transformation. She is completing this work in collaboration with Joyce Van Eck at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research in Ithaca, New York.


Email: swilson@ecs.umass.edu


Lisa Leone completed her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia. During the course of her undergraduate education she participated in internship programs at ConocoPhillips, Dupont and Genencor, the last of which sparked an interest in biotechnology. She joined the Roberts group in the fall of 2010 to optimize plant cell growth in bioreactors through a combination of mathematical modelling and experimental techniques in collaboration with Mike Henson.


Email: lleone@ecs.umass.edu


Current Collaborators



Current Undergraduate Researchers


Nick Cadirov will graduate with his B.S. in Chemical Engineering in May 2012 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently applying to graduate school for the fall 2012 semester. He has worked with Sarah Wilson in the Roberts lab since the beginning of his junior year. As a senior, he is currently completing his honors thesis, working to optimize a protocol for the reculturing of Taxus protoplasts. In the spring of 2011, Nick presented his work at the annual UMass Undergraduate Research symposium.



Katie Geldhart will graduate with her B.S. in Chemical Engineering in May 2012 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently applying to graduate school for the fall 2012 semester. Katie works on optimizing Taxus cell suspension culture (beginning under the direction of Marty) using the coulter counter to measure changes in aggregate size over time.


Sarena Horava will graduate with her B.S. in Chemical Engineering in May 2012 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently applying to graduate school for the fall 2012 semester. She has worked in the field of biomaterials and tissue engineering with Whitney Stoppel in the Roberts lab since the beginning of her sophomore year. She has received numerous UMass Commonwealth Honors College fellowships and has presented a poster at the UMass Undergraduate Research Symposium in the spring of 2010 and 2011. This fall, she will present her work at the BMES annual meeting in Hartford, CT during the undergraduate poster session. Currently, she is completing her honors thesis through the exploration of smooth muscle cell extracellular matrix secretion in alginate hydrogels over time.


Nicole Raia will graduate with her B.S. in Chemical Engineering in May 2012 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently applying to graduate school and industry positions. Nicole has worked with Sarah Wilson in the Roberts since the beginning of her junior year. As a senior, she is currently completing her honors thesis, working to develop a selection protocol for the Roberts lab's Taxus cell lines after an Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. As a result of her hard work, Nicole received a Commonwealth Honors College fellowship in the spring of 2011 and presented her results at the annual UMass Undergraduate Research symposium.

Kelsey Mantoni joined the Roberts Lab in the fall of 2011 as a sophomore honor chemical engineering student to begin work on her Capstone honors thesis. Kelsey will be working with Whitney in the field of biomaterials and tissue engineering.



Michael Vilkhavoy joined the Roberts Lab in the fall of 2011 as a sophomore honor chemical engineering student to begin work on his Capstone honors thesis. Michael will be working with Sarah on plant cell culture transformation.


Alec Gramann joined the Roberts Lab in the fall of 2011 as a sophomore chemical engineering student to begin work on plant cell culture dynamics in stirred bioreactors with Lisa.


William Tyler Frantz joined the Roberts Lab in the fall of 2011 as a sophomore chemical engineering student to begin work on plant cell culture dynamics in stirred bioreactors with Lisa.


Former Postdoctoral Researchers


  • Ling Tao (2004-2005) “Optimizing fuel metabolism and delivery for diabetes treatment.” (co-advisor S. Bhatia) Current position: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
  • Nadia Boutaoui (2003-2006), “Differential mRNA expression analysis in Taxus cells in response to methyl jasmonate elicitation.” (co-advisor E. Walker) Current position: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA

Former Graduate Students


  • Martin E. Kolewe
    (ChE, PhD), 2011, “Plant cell heterogeneity, aggregation and population dynamics.” Marty is currently a post-doc under Dr. Lisa Freed and Dr. Robert Langer at Draper Laboratory.

Email: mkolewe@ecs.umass.edu
Marty's Current CV

  • Vishal Gaurav (ChE, PhD), 2011, “Flow cytometry of cultured plant cells for characterization of culture heterogeneity and cell sorting applications.” Current position: BioGenex, MA.
  • Kham Vongpaseuth (Plant Biology, PhD), 2011, “Taxus transformation and functional characterization of putative regulatory genes.” Current position: United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Biotechnology Regulatory Services (USDA-APHIS-BRS), Riverdale, MD
  • KyuongSik Chin (ChE, PhD), 2009, “Optimizing cell encapsulation devices through enhanced oxygen supply.” Current position: Samsung, Korea
  • Sarwat Khattak (ChE, PhD), 2006, “In vitro applications in drug metabolism and cell encapsulation.” Current position: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Syracuse, NY
  • Michael Naill (ChE, PhD), 2005, “The use of flow cytometry to study variability of paclitaxel accumulation in Taxus cell suspension cultures” Current position: Abbott Laboratories, Worcester, MA
  • Camille Dubois (ChE, MS), 2005, “Profiling taxanes in plant cell suspension cultures.” Current Position: DianaPlantSciences, Inc, Portland, OR
  • Jeanne Michon (ChE, MS), 2001, “Understanding taxane metabolism through the development of a cell-free system and studies on taxane degradation.”
  • Julian Esclassan (ChE, MS), 2001, “Paclitaxel stability in plant cell suspension cultures.”

Former Undergraduates with Honors Theses


  • Jordan Atlas
  • David Babson
  • Meenal Datta
  • Nikola Finneran
  • Daniel Hines
  • Michael Lovett
  • Julie Matthew
  • Gretchen McAuliffe
  • Jonathan Moreno
  • Eva Shah
  • Amit Shavit
  • Michelle Spatara
  • Melissa St. Amand

Former REU Students

Summer 2011

  • Nathan Bade, Institute for Cellular Engineering REU Student
  • Kristen Garcia, Institute for Cellular Engineering REU Student

Summer 2010

  • Meghan Combs, Institute for Cellular Engineering REU Student
  • Vanessa Mukania, UMass College of Engineering REU Student

Summer 2009

Summer 2008

  • Kori Dunn, Institute for Cellular Engineering REU Student

Summer 2007

  • Whitney Stoppel, Institute for Cellular Engineering REU student

Before 2007

  • Sally Wang
  • Gaby Mas
  • Robert Harmon

The Roberts lab is always willing to take REU students funded through programs on the UMass campus. Please see the Institute for Cellular Engineering REU program and the UMass College of Engineering REU program for opportunities.


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