Principle Investigator

Mike Smanski
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
344a Gortner Lab
1479 Gortner Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108

smanski [at] umn [dot] edu



Postdoctoral Scholars

Maciej Maselko

Maciej is developing Synthetic Incompatibility; an approach for engineering species-like barriers in sexually reproductive organisms. Synthetic Incompatibility has applications for transgene biocontainment in plants engineered to produce high-value compounds and for controlling pest species such as mosquitoes and invasive fish.

mmaselko [at] umn [dot] edu



Chris Stach

Mammalian synthetic biology holds promise in developing cell based therapies, natural product synthesis, protein therapeutics, and defining the role of complex signaling networks in cell development. Utilizing the latest DNA synthesis and assembly technology, Chris is expanding the toolbox available for mammalian synthetic biology. Using these new tools Chris is studying signaling, protein expression, and post-translational modifications in various mammalian cell lines.

cstach [at] umn [dot] edu



Graduate Students

Suzie (Szu-Yi) Hsu

Suzie is interested in the optimization of multi-gene systems, with a focus on natural product biosynthesis. Her project aims to accelerate natural product discovery by activating cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters. Currently, Suzie is working on rational optimization of terpene biosynthesis in Streptomycetes.

hsuxx166 [at] umn [dot] edu



Stephen Heinsch

Natural product biosynthesis is heavily regulated within the cell. Stephen is combining state-of-the-art computational methods with synthetic biology tools to engineer regulatory programs that will activate silent biosynthetic gene clusters. The major aim of Stephen's work is to improve the predictability and success rate of natural product discovery.

heins049 [at] umn [dot] edu



Matt Zinselmeier

Matt's research focuses on developing and applying Synthetic Incompatibility within plant systems. He is also interested in the improvement of genome engineering technologies and developing tools for agricultural biotechnology.

zins0031 [at] umn [dot] edu



Research Scientists

Dimitri Perusse

Dimitri is working on the synthesis or hemi synthesis of natural products and their derivatives. His focus is on the synthesis of molecules from natural starting materials or by characterizing new compounds produced by microorganisms. Dimitri is also designing analogs of potential pharmaceutical compounds to improve their potency or bioavailibility.

dperusse [at] umn [dot] edu



Undergraduate Students

Dakota Snustad

Dakota is investigating the effects of guanine quadruplex DNA structures (G4 DNA) on Streptomyces gene expression. G4 DNA is a secondary structure of DNA that forms when four or more regions of DNA containing multiple guanine bases in a row bind together. I'm exploring how both the stabilization of G4 DNA and the removal of G4 DNA affect the production of certain compounds in Streptomyces coelicolor. Dakota hopes to gain better understanding of gene expression in bacteria and other organisms through his work.

snust016 [at] umn [dot] edu


Nathan Feltman

Nathan's research is focused on the development of a zebrafish synthetic species. I synthesize RNA components to insert into zebrafish embryos via microinjections, thereby altering gene expression. Eventually, Nate will use microinjections to insert new genetic material in zebrafish to create the synthetic species.

feltm006 [at] umn [dot] edu