Current Lab Members


Fuguo Liu, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Associate

Fuguo Liu graduated from the Ocean University of China with a PhD degree in Animal Medicine in June 2017. He was awarded a Newton International Fellowship by the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK) in September 2017, which supported him to conduct a postdoc with Prof. Chris Secombes for 2 years at University Aberdeen. He then moved to Stanford University to study the genetic diversity of human leukocyte Ig-like receptors and NK cell functions. In the Chen lab, he will continue his interest in human NK cells, developing next generation of CAR-NK cell therapy for cancer, in particular developing technologies to enable the use of allogenic NK cells.

Junru Cui, Ph.D.

Research Scientist

Junru Cui earned his Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Antonio Garmendia at University of Connecticut in Pathobiology in July 2017. In his thesis research, Junru designed, constructed, and characterized polyvalent T cell mosaic DNA vaccines which conferred cross-protection in swine against heterologous PRRSV strains. He then joined The Stivers Lab at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Associate where he discovered that deoxyuridine /adenine basepairs in transcriptional DNA templates inhibit human RNA polymerase II and contribute to RNA mutagenesis and established that high dUTP levels in AM/MDM leads to dUMP in viral DNA that persists and potentially contributes to HIV latency. Junru joined The Chen Lab as a Research Scientist in June 2022, he will continue his interest in immunology and vaccinology, developing an mRNA-based vaccine platform facilitating vaccine development against African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV).


James Ham

PhD Candidate, Biology

James Ham graduated from Carnegie Melon Univeristy with a BS in Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. He is interested in NK cell dysfunction in tumor microenvironments and developing novel immune therapeutics.

Alexander Bevacqua

Graduate Student, Biological Engineering

Alexander Bevacqua graduated from McGill University with a B.Eng. in Bioengineering in 2021 after working in the labs of Professors Barthelat, Dorval Courchesne, and Xia. He is now pursuing his Ph.D. in Biological Engineering at MIT. He is co-advised by Professor Jongyoon Han in the Department of Biological Engineering. He is developing continuous bioproduction of viral vectors using membrane-less perfusion culture and will use the viral vectors to develop novel CAR-NK cells for cancer immunotherapy.

Ronni da Silva, Ph.D.

SMART in Singapore
Postdoctoral Associate

Ronni is originally from Brazil, but has spent time in the US, the UK and Germany for his education. Ronni received his PhD from University of Nottingham (UK) in 2019. In Singapore, Ronni is a post-doc within the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), working on a joint project with Prof. Jianzhu Chen (MIT) and Kimberly Kline (NTU). Ronni is part of the SMART Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) integrated research group which is a unique translational research and entrepreneurship program that aims to solve the growing threat of resistance to antimicrobial drugs. Ronni is particularly interested in harnessing the power of the human immune system to tackle AMR and has been focusing of compounds that can enhance the bactericidal activity of macrophages.

Nguyen Nu Zen Na, Ph.D.

SMART in Singapore
Postdoctoral Associate

Zen Na graduated from the University of Ulsan, Korea with a Ph.D. degree in Biological Science (Immunological major) in 2022. She previously focused on Candida albicans infection in Kidney, where she demonstrated a significant breakthrough by unveiling novel roles/pathways of several factors (CCR5, IL-33, CD137) in the antifungal mechanism in Kidneys. In March 2023, She joined Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Centre (SMART) and work on projects with Prof. Jianzhu Chen (MIT) and Prof. Kimberly Kline (NTU). At SMART, Her research interests revolve around the field of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), particularly on identifying compounds and pathways that can enhance the bactericidal activity of macrophages in wound healing.


Nikola Ivica, Ph.D.

Visting Scientist

Guangan Hu, Ph.D.

Visiting Scientist

Guangan Hu has been a postdoc and research scientist in the Chen lab at the Koch Institute MIT since 2009. Dr. Hu is an immunologist and computational biologist to apply systems biology approaches, disease models and clinic data to understand the immune system and immune-associated diseases for translational medicine, including target identification and biology of cancer, autoimmune, tissue fibrosis, tissue injury and repair as well as infectious diseases and vaccination. He obtained his PhD at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore under the supervision of Dr. Zbynek Bozdech. His PhD studies involved computational and functional genomics of human malaria. Prior to his PhD, Guangan awarded his bachelor’s in bioengineering and master’s in molecular cell and biochemistry at Hubei University in 2003.

Atif Kamil, Ph.D.

Visiting Scientist

Atif Kamil graduated from University of Peshawar Pakistan, with BS(Hons) in Biotechnology. Kamil was awarded overseas scholarship for MS and PhD in Norway, by Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan in 2007. Kamil got MS in Molecular Biology in 2009 and PhD in Molecular Immunology in 2013 from University of Bergen (UIB), Norway. Since 2013, Kamil worked as Assistant Professor and as Associate Professor from 2021 at Department of Biotechnology, Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, Pakistan. He received overseas postdoc fellowship award form HEC Pakistan at Chen Lab. At Chen lab he is working on ASFV vaccine development project. He will focus on designing recombinant ASFV for possible neutralization antibodies against ASFV. He will also focus on expressing P17 in yeast model.  

Mengke Li

Visiting Student

Mengke Li is from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and currently a PhD candidate of Biology. In 2017, he participated in International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) and won the Gold prize (XMU-China). He graduated from Xiamen University with a BS in Biological Engineering in 2018. He previously worked on water-solubilization of membrane proteins and the mechanism of transmembrane signaling in bacteria. In Chen Lab, he is working on the regulatory role of macrophages in lipid metabolism and its molecular mechanism.

Fangfeng Yuan, Ph.D. 

Postdoctoral Associate

Fangfeng Yuan obtained his master’s degree from Kansas State University, followed by a PhD degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the supervision of Dr. Ying Fang. Partially supported by the Illinois distinguished fellowship, Fangfeng has high interest in viral diagnostic and vaccine development against infectious diseases. He developed molecular and serological assays against multiple emerging viruses, including ASFV, SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine research work was mainly focused on developing a novel viral vector for expressing ASFV antigens and establishing a pregnant sow-fetus model to evaluate a chimeric influenza vaccine created using molecular breeding (gene shuffling) technology. In the Chen lab, he will apply his interests in Virology to develop countering measures against ASFV using a mRNA-based vaccine platform.

Yingjie Zhao, Ph.D. 

Postdoctoral Associate

Yingjie Zhao got her Ph.D. in Basic Medicine from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Dec 2020. She has focused on the impact of the structure of immunoglobulins on agonistic monoclonal antibodies. Then she joined Qilu Pharmacitucal R&D center and supported in vitro pharmacology of macromolecule drugs. Since Nov 2022, she joined Chen'lab as a postdoc and focused on CAR-NK direction.​

Veronica Hsu

Lab Manager

Veronica Hsu recently graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2021 with a double major in Environmental Studies and Biology. She previously studied species interactions in aquatic ecosystems with Professor Moeller (UCSB), and investigated flower nectar microbiomes with Professor Fukami (Stanford) during summer 2018. Since joining the Chen Lab in fall 2021, she has been working on CAR-NK technology. Her New Year's resolution is to improve her cooking skills.

Katherine Duan

Undergraduate Researcher

Katherine is a sophomore at MIT studying chemistry and biology. Since joining the lab in March 2021 she has been working on developing CAR-NK cells that target cancer-specific antigens. 

Amber Williams

Undergraduate Researcher
Biological Engineering and Biology

Amber is a senior at MIT that will graduate with a BS in biological engineering and biology in June 2023. Amber is interested in the immune system and its interactions with different diseases or pathogens. Since joining the lab in April 2022, she has been working on CAR-NK technology to treat cancer.

Charlotte Geck

Visiting Student

Charlotte is a visiting Student from Germany. After finishing her Bachelor Thesis investigating neuron-microglia interaction at the German Center for neurodegenerative diseases in Bonn, she started studying Cancer Biology at the University of Heidelberg/the German Center for Cancer Research. After finishing an internship at the ETH in Zürich investigating Hedgehog Signaling in neural tube development she is now working in the Chen Lab on CAR-NK Cell Immunotherapy for solid tumors.