The Plaxco Group

Prof. Kevin W. Plaxco

Kevin Plaxco
3002 Bioengineering Building
(805) 893-5558 (phone)
(805) 893-4120 (Fax)
Institutional website:

My lab studies protein folding and biomolecular engineering. Our goal in these endeavors is both an improved understanding of the folding process and an ability to apply this rapid, highly specific, highly cooperative self-assembly process to the development of nano-scale electronic sensors and adaptable materials.

See Research page for more info.

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Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows

Martin KurnikMartin
Ph.D. ’13 from the University of Stockholm in Sweden in Biochemistry
mkurnik (at)

I am developing a new, quantitative approach for measuring how proteins and nucleic acids interact with different artificial surfaces, including biomimetics. The resulting experimentally derived models of surface-interaction thermodynamics will facilitate design of new, optimally biocompatible materials for implants, tissue engineering scaffolds, drug delivery nanoparticles, biosensors, and other biotechnologies. My work also has a fundamental scientific motivation: we cannot comprehend the molecular biology of the cell without understanding how its contents remain in solution despite proximity to a multitude of membrane surfaces.

Philippe Dauphin Ducharme
Ph.D. ’15 from McGill University in Chemistry
pducharme (at)

I am working in expanding the ability of the electrochemical-DNA (E-DNA) biosensors to detect a wide variety of ions such as Na+, K+, adenosine triphosphate and even small molecules such as glucose and cholesterol! This is done by using non-covalent interaction and principles of supramolecular chemistry. Eventually, the goal of this project would be to test this new class of E-DNA biosensor for their clinical utility in finger-prick volumes of whole blood.

Claudio Parolo
Beatriu de Pinós Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. ’13 from Autonomous University of Barcelona in Biotechnology
claudio.parolo (at)

My general research interest is the development of cheap and easy-to-use biosensors for diagnostics applications. I am currently working on the integration of electrochemical DNA sensors into a paper-based electrode. The final goal is the development of a multiplexed device to detect HIV and Syphilis biomarkers in real samples.

Gabriel Ortega
Ph.D. 2015 from the University of Basque Country & CIC bioGUNE in Molecular Biology and Biomedicine
gortega (at) |

Proteins are nature’s choice for most biological functions, but when it comes to biotechnological applications, we are not yet able to make use of their full potential. This is partially because proteins often unfold, adhere to, and inactivate on artificial surfaces. My research focuses in understanding the biophysics of protein-surface interactions with sufficient detail as to guide the design of surfaces on which attached-proteins retain their native fold, their function, and any relevant conformational changes. My ultimate goal is to use this knowledge to design protein-based electrochemical sensors that support the real-time measurement of biologically relevant molecules.

Andrea Idili
Ph.D. ’16 in Chemistry from University of Rome Tor Vergata
aidili (at)

My research focuses on the design and characterization of new electrochemical aptamer-based sensors for the detection of diagnostically relevant small molecules. The ultimate goal is the development of new DNA-based sensors for performing both ex-vivo point of care measurements of diagnostically important molecules and their continuos in-vivo measurements.

Alejandro Chamorro Garcia, PhD.
Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow (MSC GF)
achamorro (at)

My aim is to develop novel biosensors by engineering the recognition elements (RE) responsible of detection. My focus is on exploring modifications of aptamers as RE which allow us to tune in an advantageous way their binding properties with its analyte. This way we can achieve more precise sensors capable of monitoring very subtle changes in an analyte concentration. My final goal is to deploy the engineered RE in Electrochemical DNA sensors (EDNA), with its associated advantages (inexpensive, single step, fast, wash free, and easy to operate), adapted specifically for each real case scenario.

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Graduate Students

Ava ‘Shruti’ Greenwoodshruti1
Chemistry Program

Serology provides comprehensive information about infection, disease progression, and immune history. Our group has developed electrochemical DNA (E-DNA) scaffold sensors to detect diagnostic antibodies in a rapid, single step, wash free, electrochemical system. My current research focuses on improving the analytical and clinical performance of these sensors, in addition to expanding the platform to diagnose multiple sexually transmitted infections. The overreaching goal of my work is to develop an inexpensive, single step, wash free, multiplexed E-DNA scaffold sensor to detect multiple diagnostic antibodies at the point of care in less than 10 minutes – which will improve patient outcomes and reduce the number of patients lost to followup.

Nathan Ogden
Materials Program
nate.ogden (at)

Biosensor development and sensor coupling to microfluidic devices.

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Undergraduate Students

Eric Pang
Chemistry Undergraduate
ericpang (at)

I am currently researching a new method to measure protein-surface interaction thermodynamics. Under the mentorship of Dr. Martin Kurnik, I am investigating various stabilizing and destabilizing effects that different artificial surfaces have on different model proteins. With extensive knowledge of protein folding behavior with artificial surfaces, we can hopefully optimize and improve the performance of currently-developing protein biosensors.

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Plaxco Group Alumni

Netzahualcóyotl ‘Netz’ Arroyo, Otis Williams Postdoctoral Fellow, ’18
Jacob Somerson, Ph.D. ’18
Andrew Csordas, Post Doc ’17-’18
Megan Larisch, Master ’17
Deby Fapyane, Visiting International Student Autumn ’17
Alessandra Troina,  Visiting International Student Autumn ’17
Amanda Caceres, Chemistry undergraduate ’17
Chase Hawes, Chemistry Undergraduate ’17
Hui Li,  Marie Curie Fellow ’17
Ramces Gonzalez, ARC Summer Research Program ’16
Stefano Cinti, Visiting Scholar ’16
Di Kang, Ph.D. ’16
Hannah Kallewaard-Lum, Master ’16
Yanxian Li, Chemistry undergraduate ’15
Claire Tran, Chemistry undergraduate ’15
Dr. Emir Yasun, Post Doc ’14-’15
Christopher Bellingham, Chemistry undergraduate ’15
Mackenzie Lucero, EUREKA Summer Intern ’15
Luke Walls-Smith, B.S. in Biochemistry ’14
Anna Simon, Ph.D. Student ’15
Alejandro Chamorro, Visiting International Student Spring ’15
Boitumelo ‘Tumi’ Fanampe, Visiting Fulbright Scholar 2014
Dr. Xiuhai Mao, Winter 2014 Visiting International Researcher
Eric Rinehart, Summer 2013 SURF Fellow
Gianluca Adornetto, Visiting International Student Summer ’13
Colin Moore, Visiting International Student Spring ’13
Camille Lawrence, Ph.D. Student ’13
Helena Montón Domingo, Visiting International Student Spring ’13
Herschel Watkins, Ph.D. Student ’08-’13
Simona Ranallo , Visiting International Student Fall ’12
Dr. Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, Post Doc ’07-’12
Andrea Idili , Visiting International Student Summer ’12
Kaisha Benjamin, SABRE Intern, B.S. Chemical Engineering ’13
Amanda Goley, Undergraduate Researcher, B.S. Biochemistry ’12
Zoe Swank, Undergraduate Researcher, B.S. Biochemistry ’12
Dina Niculaes, Visiting Student ’11-’12
Dr. Adriana Patterson, Ph.D. Student ’07-’12
Dr. Fan Xia, Post Doc ’09-’12
Dr. Vinh Nguyen, Post Doc ’09-’12
Eva Gonzalez Fernandez, International Visiting Student 2012
Alessandro Porchetta, Visiting International Student Fall ’11
Dr. Andrew J. Bonham, Post Doc ’10-’11
Dr. Ryan White, Post Doc ’07-’11
Kelly Chuh , Undergraduate Researcher, BS ’11 Biochemistry
Erin Miller, Undergraduate Researcher, BS ’11
Dr. Aaron Rowe, Ph.D. ’11
Dr. Xiaolei Zuo, Post Doc ’08-’10
Dr. Kevin Cash, Ph.D. ’09
Dr. Arica Lubin, Ph.D. ’09
Dr. Takanori Uzawa , Post Doc ’06-’09
Dr. Yi Xiao; Post Doc ’04-’08
Dr. Jing Xu, Ph.D. Student, ’03-’08
Brook Vander Stoep Hunt (Barajas), Undergraduate Researcher, BS Microbiology ’07
Dr. Kenneth J. Oh , PhD ’07
Dr. Francesco Ricci , Post Doc ’05-’07
Dr. Rebecca Lai , Post Doc ’03-’07
Dr. Brian Baker , Post Doc ’03-’06
Dr. Miguel de los Rios, Ph.D. Student, ’99-’05
Dr. Jonathan E. Kohn , PhD ’05
Dr. Evan McCarney , PhD ’05
Dr. Blake Gillespie , Post Doc ’99-’03

Lab Mailing Address

3209 Center for Bioengineering
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106

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