Research Specialists

Awurama Akyianu

Research Specialist

Wendy Bonilla-Acosta, M.S.

Wendy Bonilla-Acosta, M.S.

Research Specialist

she/her/hers

Wendy Bonilla-Acosta received her B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Fairleigh Dickinson University. During her time as an undergraduate student, Wendy researched sexual dimorphism and sexual selection in D. melanogaster (fruit flies) and C. maculatus (bean beetles). After graduation, Wendy attended Rowan University and received her M.S. in Biomedical Sciences.  

In October 2021, Wendy joined the Weissman Lab under the supervision of Dr. Xiomara Mercado-Lopez. Wendy is currently working on vaccine development against viral diseases such as Influenza and Flaviviruses.  

Benjamin Davis, Ph.D.

Benjamin Davis, Ph.D.

Research Specialist

he/him/his

Dr. Benjamin Davis received his B.S. from Rutgers University in 2011 and his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Thomas Jefferson University in 2019, in the laboratory of Dr. Matthias Schnell. His thesis work focused on innate immunity to neurotropic virus infections, particularly rabies virus. This line of research explored a novel hypothesis concerning the recognition of viral RNA by an interferon-stimulated gene of unknown function. In early 2021, Dr. Davis joined the laboratory of Dr. Drew Weissman at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine as a research specialist. With the direction of Drs. Mohamad-Gabriel Alameh and Istvan Tombacz, Dr. Davis oversees the production of the lab’s mRNA-LNP platform, assists in the development of mRNA vaccines to SARS-CoV-2 variants, and continues to seek safer and more effective interventions for diseases caused by SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.

Nathan Ona, B.S.

Nathan Ona, B.S.

Research Specialist

he/him/his

Nathan Ona graduated Drexel University in 2022, with a B.S. in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering and a minor in Information Systems. Through Drexel’s Cooperative Education program, he got to work for a small medical device company, Moberg ICU Solutions. In that position, Nathan assisted in the development of software updates for several of the company’s software products involving patient care for the Intensive Care Unit.  Coming from that experience, Nathan desired to shift from the technical aspects of biomedical engineering and experience the world of biochemistry. Nathan joined Dr. Weissman’s Lab at the University of Pennsylvania in 2020 under the supervision of Dr. Elena Atochina-Vasserman and assists her in mRNA vaccine research and in the development of novel mRNA delivery system. Nathan plans to attend graduate school in the future to expand his academic background.

Tyler Ellis Papp, B.S.

Tyler Ellis Papp, B.S.

Research Specialist

he/him/his

Tyler Ellis Papp earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Anthropology from Drexel University in 2016. While enrolled, he was a research intern at Fox Chase Cancer Center, under the mentorship of Dr. Jose Russo, M.D./F.A.C.P. At Fox Chase, Tyler investigated functions of long non-coding RNAs in the context of parity-induced breast cancer prevention in postmenopausal years. After graduating from Drexel, Tyler joined the laboratory of Dr. Jean Bennett, M.D./Ph.D., at the University of Pennsylvania, who pioneered Luxturna, the first ever FDA-approved Adeno Associated Virus (AAV) based gene therapy in 2017, which ultimately cured genetic blindness for those who suffered from Leber Congenital Amaurosis. As a research specialist in Dr. Bennett’s lab, Tyler contributed significant experimental data to support industry-sponsored Pre-IND studies for other AAV-based gene therapies in multiple retinal degenerative diseases with the aim to advance to the clinic.

In April 2020, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Drew Weissman, as a research specialist to focus on novel cell-specific targeting projects and efficient delivery of mRNA-LNPs. Under the mentorship of Assistant Research Professor Dr. Hamideh Parhiz, Tyler’s continued research efforts help elucidate the expanded translational application of the mRNA-LNP therapeutic platform for multiple injuries and diseases. In the future, Tyler plans to advance his research career through graduate studies in gene therapy and immunology.

Ruiqi Shi, B.S.

Ruiqi Shi, B.S.

Research Specialist

he/him/his

Ruiqi Shi received his B.S. in Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018. During his time as an undergraduate student, his main interests focused on neuroplasticity, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

He joined the Weissman Lab in 2019 under the supervision of Dr. Qin Li and has been helping produce mRNA as well as assisting in other projects. In the future, he hopes to further explore clinical research or other healthcare related fields.