Current Lab Members

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. April Lewis –

Using molecular genetic techniques, I’m investigating how archaeal thermoacidophiles respond to perturbations in their already extreme environment. Particularly, I am looking at the role of their native toxin/antitoxins systems and how they aid in these stress responses.

Before joining the Kelly lab, I earned my PhD in Microbiology and Cell Science at the University of Florida studying the role of a nitric oxide reductase in Staphylococcus aureus physiology. After graduating, I worked at Brammer Bio for 2 years manufacturing AAV based gene therapy vectors and then in the Hassan lab at NCSU working on a vaccine for Salmonella enterica. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy crafts, tabletop gaming, and playing with my dogs.


Graduate Students

James Crosby –
My research interests involve engineering Caldicellulosiruptor species to produce useful commodity chemicals from lignocellulose. I am especially interested in using metabolic modeling to connect sugar utilization to product yield, with the goal of optimizing engineered pathways.

Prior to joining the Kelly lab, I worked for DuPont for four years in environmental remediation and fluorochemicals development.  Outside of research, I enjoy playing ultimate, biking, and traveling.



Tunyaboon (Nu) Laemthong –
My research involves engineering Caldicellulosiruptor bescii to produce desirable products from cellulosic materials, characterizing the mechanism how C. bescii enzymatically hydrolyzes lignocellulose to simple sugars, and determining ways to improve lignocellulosic plant biomass deconstruction by engineering the cell surface.

Apart from research, I enjoy playing badminton and traveling.


Dan Willard –

My research explores thermoacidophiles and their unique metabolisms necessary to survive in low pH, high temperature environments.  Specifically, I seek to understand how sulfur and CO2are utilized in energy conservation and carbon fixation.  I am also working on introducing these metabolisms, along with a pathway for synthesizing a value-added chemical, into Sulfolobus acidocaldarius.  The combination of these pathways presents a biological route for chemical production from common industrial waste sources.

Before joining the Kelly lab, I spent two years as an adhesive coating process engineer with Avery Dennison and one year at Merck in API synthesis R&D.  Outside of research, I enjoy hiking, skiing, and playing music (piano, vocals, guitar, mandolin).


Ryan Bing –

My research is focused on metabolic engineering of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii to produce desirable products from lignocellulose substrates, understanding how C. bescii degrades lignocellulose, and identifying desirable characteristics in feedstocks for C. bescii.

Outside of work I enjoy hiking, camping, rock climbing, woodworking, and metalworking.



Mohamad Javad (MJ) Haghighat Manesh

I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran where I completed my bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Amirkabir University. I moved to the US in 2018 to pursue my M.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Ohio University. After graduating, I moved to Raleigh in 2020 to join NCSU Chemical Engineering program. I am currently a second year PhD candidate in the Kelly lab where I work mainly on thermoacidophiles, microorganisms that thrive in acidic hot temperatures, and their potential in biomining of critical metals, using metabolic engineering approaches.


Recent Past Members

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Ph.D. Students
James Counts Postdoc, NC State Biotechnology Program
Christopher Straub Novozymes Biologicals, RTP, NC
Ben Zeldes UNC Chapel Hill, Dept. of Pharmacy, NC  
Laura Lee Novozymes, Franklinton, NC
Jonathan Conway UNC Chapel Hill, Dept. of Biology, NC
Andrew Loder Novozymes, Franklinton, NC
Garrett Wheaton Self-Employed Entrepreneur
Jeff Zurawski Amgen, Juncos, Puerto Rico
Aaron Hawkins Novozymes, Franklinton, NC
Hong Lian School of Public Health, Xiamen University, China
Arpan Mukerjee Alexion Pharmaceuticals, New Haven, CT
Jaspreet Notey KBI Biopharma, Durham, NC
Andrew Frock Novozymes, Franklinton, NC
Master’s Students
Jun Gao TVS, Inc., RTP, NC
Lance Driskill Diagnostic Radiology, Plano, TX
Rockey Bandlish Illumina, San Diego, CA
Pascal Leduc Bonduelle, Borderes, France
Olga D’Hennezel Merck and Co., Durham, NC
Post-Docs/Visiting Scientists
Piyum Khatibi Novozymes, RTP, NC
Nick Vitko UNC Chapel Hill, NC
Javier Izquierdo Hofstra Univ.,Dept. of Biology, Hempstead, NY
Sara Blumer-Schuette Oakland Univ., Dept. of Biological Sciences, Oakland, MI
Yejun Han Chinese Acad. Sci, Beijing, China
Jason Nichols Syngenta Corp., RTP, NC