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


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


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 Vilkhovoy 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 process level techniques for increasing paclitaxel production in Taxus suspension cultures.


Bronwyn Finney joined the Roberts Lab in the fall of 2013 as a sophomore honor chemical engineering student to begin work on her Capstone honors thesis. Bronwyn will be working on the metabolic engineering of Taxus suspension cultures.


Alpha Abdoul Bamba joined the Roberts Lab in the fall of 2013 as a sophomore honor chemical engineering student to begin work on his Capstone honors thesis. Alpha will be working to increase paclitaxel levels in Taxus suspension cultures.


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


  • Rohan Patil
    (ChE, PhD), 2012, "Molecular and population level approaches to understand Taxus metabolism in cell suspension cultures."Rohan is currently employed at Genzyme.
  • 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@mit.edu

  • 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
  • Nick Cadirov, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Meenal Datta
  • Nikola Finneran
  • William Tyler Frantz, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Katie Geldhart, University of Minnesota
  • Alec Gramann, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Daniel Hines
  • Sarena Horava, University of Texas Austin
  • Michael Lovett
  • Julie Matthew
  • Gretchen McAuliffe
  • Jonathan Moreno
  • Nicole Raia, University of Minnesota
  • Eva Shah
  • Amit Shavit
  • Michelle Spatara
  • Melissa St. Amand

Former REU Students

Summer 2013

  • Angela Chen, Institute for Cellular Engineering REU Student

Summer 2012

  • Emily Hartzell, Institute for Cellular Engineering REU Student
  • Julia Petrullo, Institute for Cellular Engineering REU Student

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

Before 2008

  • Whitney Stoppel
  • 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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