Professor Joonil Seog

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Group Members

P.I.: Professor Joonil Seog

ProfessorJoonil Seog is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park. His research interests include single molecule mechanics and nanomechanics of biological materials using high resolution force spectroscopy. He received a B.S. and M.S. degree in Chemical Technology from Seoul National University. He came to the United States in 1997, and received a Sc.D. degree in polymer science and technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (with Professor Alan J. Grodzinsky and Christine Ortiz) in 2003. He continued his work at Immune Disease Institute in Harvard Medical School as a postdoctoral fellow with Timothy A. Springer. Dr. Seog joined the UMD faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2007. His current research focuses on understanding gene delivery mechanisms by cationic carriers, surface facilitated self-assembly of biopolymers, and dynamic folding behaviors of peptide based biomaterials. He is the recipient of NSF Career Award in 2011.


Sc.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003
M.S., Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea 1995
B.S., Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea 1993

Postdoctoral Experience

Immune Disease Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA (2003-2006)

Selected Honors and Awards

NSF CAREER Award, 2011

Ellen Williams Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, University of Maryland, 2011

National Institute for Standards and Technology's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Measurement Science and Engineering Fellowship (NIST-ARRA), 2012

Graduate Students

Elliot BartisElliot Bartis

Elliot Bartis is a graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering co-advised by Professor Gottlieb Oehrlein in the Laboratory for Plasma Processing of Materials. Elliot studies how low temperature plasma (4th state of matter, not blood plasma) interacts with biological and polymeric materials. Specifically, he is interested in which plasma species are responsible for chemical changes in toxic molecules that cause biodeactivation. He has published papers on low pressure and atmospheric pressure plasma interactions with lipopolysaccharide, a harmful biomolecule found in the outer membrane of bacteria such as E. coli. Elliot's work has been presented at the American Vacuum Society International Conference and Symposium in 2011, 2012, and 2013. His next steps focus on how atmospheric pressure plasma interacts with the environment and what implications this has for surface modifications and biodeactivation.

Justin ChouSzu-Ting (Justin) Chou

Justin Chou is a graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering co-advised by Professor James Mixson of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Department of Pathology. Justin works on the development and biophysical characterization of histidine-lysine (HK) peptides for systemic delivery of siRNA. He has collaborated with Dr. Kahn and Dr. Mixson on a project in which he utilized NMR and ITC to show that hydrogen bonding between histidines and siRNA plays an important role in enhanced stability and silencing activity of HK/siRNA nanoplexes. Justin has also presented his work at the annual meetings of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (2011-2013) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (2013), and has received multiple travel awards. Justin recently defended his Ph.D. dissertation and will soon pursue a postdoc position in the field of biomaterials and nanomedicine.    

Amy LeeMy Tra Le

My Tra Le is a graduate student in the Molecular and Cell Biology program, part of the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. She is coadvised by Professor Anne E. Simon. My is interested in studying the contribution of the viral RNA genome in its replication and translation. In her collaboration with Dr. Kwaku Dayie, she uses optical tweezers–a single molecule technique–and nuclear magnetic resonance to study the structural fold of two viral RNA elements which enhance translation of two plant RNA viruses. Using optical tweezers, she has found that the T shaped structural element of the turnip crinkle virus folds in three steps and that its 18 nt pseudoknot is stabilized by the presence of magnesium. This might explain the conformation switch of this RNA element. In NMR, she has been developing a method to make RNA containing site-specific labeled nucleotides using wild type and mutant E. coli strains. This might reduce the crowding problem of NMR spectra in studying structure of long RNA elements. She has presented her work as a poster and talk at the 2012 and 2013 Virology Retreat, the 2012 and 2013 Molecular and Cell Biology program retreat, Bioscience Bay 2012, and the annual meetings of the American Society of Virology in 2012 and 2013. My successfully defended her thesis proposal and advanced to Ph.D candidacy in 2012.

Amy LeeAmy Lee

Amy Lee is a graduate student in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering. Amy is using Optical Tweezers to study the single molecule mechanics of condensed DNA for the purpose of gene delivery. Important aspects of this work include identifying and quantifying the dynamic intermolecular interactions and forces that balance protection and release for efficient delivery of nucleic acids. Condensing agents being studied include histidine-lysine peptides (a collaboration with Professor James A. Mixson at the UMB School of Medicine, and Professor Jason D. Kahn in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UMCP) as well as cationic dendronized gold nanoparticles, which is a collaboration with Professor Vincent Rotello’s group at the University of Massachusettes, Amherst. Amy has authored and presented posters at the following sessions: 2011 BMES Annual Meeting, 2012 ACS Annual Meeting, 2012 Fischell Research Festival at UMCP, and 2013 Nanomedicine Day at UMB.

Eddy SalgadoEddy Salgado

Eddy Salgado is a graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and co-advised by Professor Robert M. Briber. Eddy is using the AFM to study the condensation process of DNA using several cationic dendronized gold nanoparticles synthesized by Professor Vincent Rotello's group at the University of Massachusettes, Amherst. The project is an effort to better understand the mechanisms of compaction of DNA with these novel particles in various conditions as well as the mechanical properties and how they may relate to the design and application of gene delivery vectors. This work has been presented as a poster at the 2013 Nanomedicine Day at UMB.

Brian StockBrian Stock

Brian Stock is a graduate student in the Biophysics Program. Brian is studying the mechanically induced self-assembly behaviors of Silk-Elastin-Like Peptide Polymer (SELP) using AFM in an effort to understand early stages in the growth of amyloid fibers from oligimeric species. This work was presented as a poster at the Biophysics Symposium at UMD. He has also participated in a collaborative research project with Bryant Nelson at NIST to investigate the genotoxic effects of 1.4nm gold nanoclusters and their interference with DNA repair mechanisms.


Undergraduate Students

Ryan AkmanRyan Akman

Ryan Akman is an undergraduate bioengineering major in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering. Ryan works with the optical tweezers to look into the single molecule mechanics of condensed DNA, with applications primarily in gene delivery.

Lois BornLouis Born

Louis Born is an undergraduate student in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences pursuing a double degree in bioengineering and biology. Louis uses the AFM to study the mechanically induced self-assembly of silk-elastin-like peptide polymers (SELP), an amyloid-like protein with applications in gene and drug delivery.

Zachary PelczarZachary Pelczar

Zachary Pelczar is an undergraduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Zach is studying mechanical fingerprints of silk-elastin-like peptide polymers (SELP) using AFM on silicon substrate. He is also helping study self-assembly behavior of mechanically induced SELP.

Previous members

Eric Azebu (UMD, Bioengineering)
Jonathan Chang (M.S.)
Jiwon Chung (Postdoc)
Karam Hijji (UMD, Materials Science and Engineering) (B.S.)
Sara Johnson (B.S.; currently at University of Utah, Ph.D. program)
Adam Karcz (M.S.)
Bohyun Kim (Postdoc)
Young Kwan Ko (Postdoc)
Sara Kwon (current undergraduate student, UMD)
Xiu-Feng Peng (2009 NSF REU, Case Western Reserve Univ.; currently at Purdue Univ. Ph.D. program)
Trina Quabili (current undergraduate student, UMD)
Steven Ramiro (B.S.)
Justin Rosch (2010 NSF REU, University of Rochester; currently at Cornell University, Ph.D. program)
Zachary Russ (B.S.; currently at UC Berkeley, Ph.D. program)
Laurent Scott (2008 NSF REU, Spelman College)
Charlie Sun (UMD Bioengineering, currently at Boston University, Ph.D. program)
Chenyang Tie (Postdoc)
Nitinun Varongchayakul (M.S.; currently at Boston University, Ph.D. program)
Jeffrey Zhang (UMD Bioengineering, currently at the University of Pennsylvania)

2013 Group Photo

Our group on the Kim Building plaza in 2013.

Group Photo 2011

Group dinner on December 4, 2011.

Group dinner after Jonathan's M.S. thesis defense.

Adam poster

Adam's poster presentation at the Fischell Festival.