Scientific Team

Kingsbury Group 2019; clockwise from left: Prof. Kingsbury, Karam Malki-Hajjar, Joseph Cronin, Emily Armbruster, Irene Jang, Drew Miles, and Natalie Ruhl

Drew Miles

Class of 2020

Drew grew up in a small town in Santa Clarita, CA. Drew is interested the application of organic synthesis to development of new pharmaceuticals. As a sophomore, Drew researched the kinetics of DesD under Dr. Katherine Hoffmann with funding from a Stauffer Research Fellowship. DesD is a prospective target for antibacterial agents that would disrupt the production of iron-chelating siderophores. In the summer of 2019, Drew was drawn to a new and independent synthesis project in the Kingsbury lab, preparing (R)-2-phenyl-N-acetylaziridine by a pathway optimized for crystalline intermediates and a lack of column chromatography. His work was supported by a second Stauffer Fellowship. In the long term, Drew plans to attend a graduate program to specialize in organic synthesis and ultimately become a university professor. Drew enjoys hiking, swimming, and political science.

Natalie Ruhl

Class of 2020

Natalie Ruhl is from Redlands, CA. She is now a senior majoring in chemistry and minoring in psychology. During the summer of 2019, she received a stipend from the National Science Foundation to partake in the multi-year project of organic synthesis to prepare N-hydroxy succinyl cadaverine (HSC) for binding studies with the protein DesD. The enzyme is an NIS synthetase known to trimerize and then macrocyclize HSC into a siderophore which antibiotic-resistant bacteria use to scavenge iron from the environment as an essential nutrient. This project opens the possibility for discovering new antibiotics. Aside from academics, she is a member of the Varsity women’s basketball team at CLU and enjoys cooking and going on hikes. Following graduation, she plans to enter a Ph.D. program in chemical engineering and pursue a research career in the pharmaceutical industry.

Yoojin (Irene) Jang

B.S. Biochemistry, Class of 2019

Irene was born in Seoul, South Korea. She developed interest in science through her high school Honors and AP Chemistry teacher. Since then, she has pushed for breadth of knowledge across all fields of science. In summer of 2018, she conducted research under the co-mentorship of Dr.’s Kingsbury and Hoffmann. Her project focused on the multi-step synthesis of N-hydroxy succinyl cadaverine (HSC), a complex polar substrate involved in the biosynthesis of the Fe(III)-chelating siderophore known as desferrioxamine. The observations she has made lay a groundwork for better analytical methods of purifying this polyfunctional molecule. Currently, Irene is undertaking graduate work at California State University, Northridge. Outside of her studies, she likes to spend time listening to music and cooking new recipes.

Emily Armbruster

B.S. Biology, Class of 2019

Emily earned her bachelor’s degree with Honors from CLU after being homeschooled from kindergarten through the end of high school. She is fascinated by the interplay between organic chemistry and her main passion, biology. During her time in the Kingsbury lab as a John Stauffer Research Fellow, she contributed to development of a new and highly versatile DNA dye molecule known as DANPY, an acronym for the dialkylaminonaphthylpyridinium nucleus. Her research experience and Dr. Kingsbury’s mentorship led her to pursue a graduate degree, and she is currently a Ph.D. student in U.C. San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences. When not in the laboratory, Emily enjoys exploring the great outdoors, all things creative, and listening to many podcasts.

James Nguyen

B.S. Biochemistry, Class of 2018

James was born in Ventura, CA and shortly after birth, moved to Brooklyn Park, MN where he spent a couple years before moving back to Ventura County. James transferred to Cal Lutheran in his junior year from a community college. In the summer of 2017, he joined the Kingsbury group and in collaboration with Dr. Kate Hoffmann, worked on the total synthesis of N-hydroxy succinyl cadaverine, a complex small molecule that is a substrate for the protein DesD. James’ interest in chemistry grew tremendously within a year in the Kingsbury lab, so he decided to further his synthesis training. Currently, he is working on a Master’s thesis in carbohydrate chemistry at Cal State University, Northridge. Outside of his studies, he enjoys working out and paint-balling.

Karam Malki-Hajjar

B.S. Biochemistry, Class of 2018

Karam grew up in a tiny village in northeastern Syria known as Al-hassakeh. His parents, both physicians, fled their home country only a few years ago because of political unrest and conflict, ultimately landing in Thousand Oaks. Karam taught himself English in record time and matriculated at California Lutheran, where he tackled a B.Sc. degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in under four years. During summers of 2016 and 2017, Karam conducted research towards the scalable synthesis of both cis and trans isomers of 3-phenyl-2-vinylaziridine. His efforts, along with those of his labmates, have laid a foundation for studying new strain-release, [3,3]- sigmatropic reactions of functionalized aziridines. Along with an insatiable interest in pursuing a career in medicine on the front lines of his home country, Karam is a competitive table tennis player, and at one point he ranked seventh in Syria at the age of 14. Game on!

George French

B.S. Biochemistry, Class of 2018

Born and raised in Seattle, George currently resides in Portland, OR. Before joining the Kingsbury group, George began independent research at the Legacy Research Institute in Oregon investigating uveitis, a chronic inflammatory disease. Upon receiving a John Stauffer Fellowship in summer 2016, he tested a Mitsunobu strategy for asymmetric synthesis of 2-vinylaziridines starting from chiral 1,2-amino alcohols. He also assisted a then ongoing collaboration with Dr. Kate Hoffmann’s lab preparing small molecule precursors to complex siderophores. Now enrolled at USC’s Hermon Ostrow School of Dentistry, George remains a beach enthusiast, enjoys all kinds of food, and stays involved as an alumnus with the Varsity water polo team at Cal Lutheran.

Joseph Cronin

B.S. Biochemistry, Class of 2018

Joseph grew up in Moorpark, just a town over from where he trained as an undergraduate at CLU. In the summer of 2016, he was awarded a Swenson Fellowship and performed research on various ring-closure methods for the synthesis of optically pure vinylaziridines. His efforts uncovered a mild and useful protocol for selective formylation of 1,2-amino alcohols. Joseph is fascinated by how the field of organic synthesis enables breakthroughs in neuroscience and pharmacology. After graduation, Joseph gained industry experience working at Integrity Bio, a full-service contract research firm specializing in biologics in Newbury Park, CA. More recently, Joe began doctoral studies at U.C. Davis. Outside of his studies, he enjoys music and snowboarding.

Joseph Enders

B.S. Biochemistry, B.A. Global Studies, Class of 2017

Joseph grew up close to Big Timber, Montana, which offers a rich environment to foster appreciation for the natural world. Joseph’s undergraduate research experience at CLU involved preparation and characterization of geminal-diborylalkanes. After graduating, he began a Master’s thesis in Immunology at Boston College, testing macrophage activation in the central nervous system and extension to an HIV model that can broaden understanding of inflammatory co-morbidities associated with HIV infections. Looking ahead, Joseph will pursue a career at the intersection of chemical science and public health. His personal passions outside of academia include surfing, skimboarding, and soccer.

Brittany Smolarski

B.S. Biochemistry, Class of 2016

Brittany grew up in Thousand Oaks and began college at CLU as a Biology major. What began as apprehension of organic chemistry quickly turned into a passion for synthesis when she was recruited into Dr. Kingsbury’s laboratory. She quickly switched her major to Biochemistry in order to “take as many chemistry classes as possible.” Upon receiving a Swenson Fellowship in 2014, she worked to optimize a key convergent Pd-catalyzed Suzuki coupling en route to DANPY, a new cationic fluorophore that is biocompatible. In summer of 2015, Brittany received a John Stauffer Fellowship award, allowing her to continue studies on the synthesis of DANPY and various derivatives. As a senior, she presented additional work on diazoalkane–carbonyl insertion methods for small molecule synthesis at ACS and ASBMB national conferences, winning Best Poster in Chemical Biology at the latter conference. Brittany currently holds a position as Research Technician in the labs of Professor Dale Boger at The Scripps Research Institute. She remains an avid CrossFit enthusiast, loves riding horses, and visits TO as much as she can. She views her time in the Kingsbury lab as a formative point in her life and couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.

Trevor Hougen

B.S. Biochemistry, Class of 2016

After leaving St. Olaf College as a freshman and transferring to CLU in 2013, Trevor took an avid interest in chemistry and began exploring C-H arylation reactions in Dr. Tannaci’s Lab. In summer of 2014, as a John Stauffer Fellow, he changed his focus to target-based synthesis, working to prepare DNA dye molecules known as DANPY’s in the Kingsbury lab. He continued this project up until graduation, whereupon he began working at a diagnostics company in San Diego, CA. In 2017, Trevor relocated to Brussels, Belgium in pursuit of a Masters in Finance degree at the Vlerick Business School. Since 2018, he has worked as a biotechnology equity analyst at Degroof Petercam. Outside of work, Trevor enjoys playing squash and soccer, as well as learning brand new languages.

Jacob Burman

B.S. Chemistry, Class of 2015

Jacob was raised in windy Chatsworth, CA and entered CLU in 2011. From scuba- and sky-diving excursions to supreme challenges of the mind, he enjoys both adventure and his experiences. Jacob has always pondered how the universe is put together and he finds chemistry to be the best answer. Lectures in organic chemistry pointed him towards his first research experience in Direct Arylation Polymerization (DArP) reactions with Dr. John Tannaci. As a senior, Jacob joined the Kingsbury lab to broaden his training, learning hydrazone oxidation methods for the synthesis of hindered internal diazo compounds. Jacob’s next move was to Emory University for pursuit of a Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry under the mentorship of Professor Simon Blakey. His thesis work offers complementary ways of preparing regioisomers of allylic amines from Group IX MCp*pi-allyl metal complexes. After defending his dissertation in August 2019, he joined PharmAgra Labs, which later became Raybow Pharma, a custom synthesis firm located in North Carolina.

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