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Meet Us – Pathway to Independence Awards in Cancer Nanotechnology Research

  Mingnan Chen, Ph.D. Ravi Singh, Ph.D.
  Andrew P. Goodwin, Ph.D. Andrew M. Smith, Ph.D.
  Aaron M. Mohs, Ph.D. Jin Xie, Ph.D.
  Prakash Rai, Ph.D.  


Mingnan Chen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
University of Utah

Mingnan Chen, Ph.D.

With the support of the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (R00) in Cancer Nanotechnology Research, Dr. Chen is currently engineering and studying a nanoscale delivery system to target drugs specifically to metastatic tumor cells. Dr. Chen research interests also include the development of polypeptide-base nanocarriers for cancer vaccines.

Dr. Chen received his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2007 from the University of Connecticut, where he studied how an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident protein, tapasin, regulates antigen peptide presentation of human immunity with Dr. Marlene Bouvier. His research was supported by a Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. predoctoral fellowship. After completing his Ph.D. study, Dr. Chen received his postdoctoral training from Dr. Ashutosh Chilkoti in nanoengineering at Duke University. Dr. Chen's postdoctoral research focused on using thermally responsive polypeptides to engineer nanoparticle delivery vehicles for cancer drugs. The research was supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. Dr. Chen has published 10 peer-reviewed scientific articles, one book chapter, and 16 meeting abstracts.

Dr. Chen received his B.Sc. in Aquaculture from Jimei University and his M.Sc. in Biological Sciences from Peking University in China.


Andrew P. Goodwin, Ph. D
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
University of Colorado, Boulder

Andrew P. Goodwin, Ph. D.

Andrew Goodwin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research, broadly speaking, focuses on the interplay between chemical properties at the molecular scale and materials properties at the nano- and microscale. Within the Alliance, he and his research group are creating "smart" nanoemulsions that change their ultrasound contrast properties specifically in the tumor microenvironment for deep-tissue imaging of tumor malignancy.

Prior to starting at Colorado, Andrew was a K99 Pathway to Independence Award in Cancer Nanotechnology Fellow at the University of California, San Diego, where he designed microbubbles that changed their mechanical properties and behavior in ultrasound fields specifically in areas of thrombosis. He obtained his Ph. D in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, where he designed new polymer architectures and novel release drug mechanisms for cancer chemotherapy. He was also a postdoctoral associate in the Stanford University CCNE, where designed new synthetic biocompatible coatings for nanomaterials to create novel hybrid nanostructures with enhanced photophysical properties for in vivo imaging and ex vivo sensors. Dr. Goodwin received his B. A. in Chemistry from Columbia University in New York.

Dr. Goodwin received his B. A. in Chemistry from Columbia University in New York.


Aaron M. Mohs, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Wake Forest Virginia Tech School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences
Wake Forest University Health Sciences

Aaron M. Mohs, Ph.D.

Andrew M. Mohs, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Wake Forest Virginia Tech School of Biomedical Engineering Sciences. He shares joint appointments with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Department of Cancer Biology, and the Translational Science Institute. At Wake Forest, he is also a member of the Comprehensive Cancer Center (Breast and Brain Tumor Centers Excellence) and the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials.

Dr. Mohs has broad interests in nanotechnology, image-guided intervention, molecular imaging, multifunctional nanoparticles, and applying innovative nanotechnology and imaging technologies for regenerative medicine. Dr. Mohs is a recipient of a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award in Cancer Nanotechnology Research from the Nation Cancer Insitute. He recently began the R00 phase at Wake Forest University Health Sciences. During this phase, Dr. Mohs' group will develop nanoparticles with fluorescence that specifically activates in the tumor microenvironment. The hope is that these in vivo nanoparticle biosensors can guide surgical resection of invading tumor tissue. To that end, a secondary aspect of the R00 is to adapt image-guided surgical instrumentation developed during Dr. Mohs' postdoctoral fellowship for minimally-invasive procedures.

Dr. Mohs received his B.A. in Chemistry from Saint John's University/College of St. Benedict in 2002 and his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah in 2006 under the mentorship of Dr. Zheng-Rong Lu. Dr. Mohs was a Cancer Nanotechnology Distinguished Fellow in the Emory-Georgia Tech joint Department of Biomedical Engineering under the mentorship of Dr. Shuming Nie.


Prakash Rai, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering
University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Prakash Rai, Ph.D.

Prakash Rai, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering at University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Prakash Rai completed his post-doctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell as an Assistant Professor in September 2012. Dr. Rai received his Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mumbai, India in 2003 and his Masters and Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2007.

Dr. Rai is interested in developing image-guided prevention and treatment strategies for breast cancer using nanoparticle-based drug delivery vehicles. Different cocktails will be developed for different cancer sub-types, such as hormone receptor positive and triple negative breast cancer. Following synthesis and optimization of the therapeutic nanoconstructs, Dr. Rai intends to study treatment efficacy in orthotopic mouse models. His other research interests are in biomaterials, molecular imaging, tissue engineering, bioMEMS and pharmacokinetic modeling.


Ravi Singh, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Cancer Biology
Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Ravi Singh, Ph.D.

Ravi Singh, Ph.D. is an assistant professor with primary appointment in the Department of Cancer Biology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, and joint appointments in the Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and the Physics Department at Wake Forest University. Dr. Singh's research focuses on the production of nanotechnology-based, multifunctional particles that can diagnose cancer, deliver therapeutic agents, monitor cancer treatment, and will facilitate the translation of nanoparticle-based therapeutics from the lab to the clinic. He is a current Howard Temin Pathway to Independence Award recipient from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Singh's interdisciplinary research background combines aspects of biology, pharmaceutics, and physics, bridging the nanotechnology-biomedicine divide. His current research involves the development of carbon nanotubes suitable for use in positron emission tomography (PET) for breast cancer diagnosis. Previously, Dr. Singh produced pioneering work in the area of carbon nanotube-mediated gene delivery, created a novel lipid-coated viral nanoparticle suitable for tumor-specific gene transfer following systemic delivery, and has authored or co-authored 30 peer-reviewed research or review articles.

Dr. Singh received his B.A. in Physics from Harvard University in 1995. He then spent eight years conducting research in viral and non-viral gene therapy at Weill Cornell Medical Center and Imperial College London before entering in graduate studies at the University of London where he earned his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Science in 2008. He completed his postdoctoral studies in Cancer Biology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in 2012.


Andrew M. Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Andrew M. Smith, Ph.D.

Andrew M. Smith, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). As an undergraduate, he worked in the research labs of Dr. Robert Nerem, Dr. Athanassios Sambanis, and Dr. James Powers in vascular tissue engineering, cellular gene delivery, and targeted molecular imaging agent development. As a graduate student and Whitaker Foundation Fellow, he worked with Dr. Shuming Nie, engineering semiconductor quantum dots for molecular, cellular, and in vivo imaging of cancer. Dr. Smith began postdoctoral research in 2008 as a Distinguished Fellow of the Emory University and Georgia Tech CCNE, studying dynamic single-molecule imaging in living cells. As an NIH Pathway to Independence Postdoctoral Fellow between 2010-2012, his research combined nanomaterials engineering and intravital microscopy for the exploration of fundamental mechanisms underlying nanoparticle drug delivery to solid tumors. As an independent investigator at UIUC, Dr. Smith's lab now focuses on optical probe design, single-molecule imaging, and cancer biology.

Dr. Smith received a B.S. in Chemistry in 2002 and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering in 2008, both from the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Jin Xie, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry
University of Georgia

Jin Xie, Ph.D.

Jin Xie, Ph.D., focused his early research on the synthesis and surface modification of magnetic nanoparticles. As a postdoctoral researcher, he joined the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS), where he worked with Dr. Xiaoyuan Chen on developing inorganic nanoparticle-based probes for multimodal imaging. In the summer of 2009, he joined the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a research fellow. His research interests include the development and evaluation of nanoparticle- or protein-based imaging probes and drug delivery vehicles. He is particularly interested in developing multifunctional theranostic agents that allow simultaneous imaging, therapy, and therapeutic response monitoring. He received a Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) from NIH in 2010. In 2011, he transitioned to independent work as an assistant professor in the department of Chemistry at the University of Georgia, with a joint appointment at the UGA Bio-Imaging Research Center.

Dr. Xie received a B.S. in Chemistry in 2003 from Nanjing University, China. He came to the United States in 2004 and obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Brown University in 2008 under the supervision of Dr. Shouheng Sun.