Current Lab Members

YubinYubin Hao


  • Research Assistant in Derda Lab since September 2014
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Yubin is employing genetically-encoded libraries to develop synthetic materials that control differentiation of Cancer Stem Cells (CSC) and promote or suppress epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions (EMT).

Placeholder-PhotoCarson Li


  • Research Assistant in Derda Lab since July 2015
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Carson is employing genetically-encoded libraries to develop strategies for delivery of drugs to and through the blood-brain barrier.

IMG_1553Nicholas Bennett


  • Ph.D., Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  • Post-doctoral fellow in Derda Lab since January, 2016


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Nick is developing new technologies and platforms for genetic encoding and presentation of diverse molecular structures on phage. He is applying these technologies to identify ligands for immune lectin DC-SIGN. The ultimate goal of this project is discovery of molecules and constructs that facilitate DC-SIGN-mediated delivery of antigens to dendritic cells, their internalization, processing and subsequent presentation to immune cells.


1. Sattar S., Bennett N.J., Wen, W.X., Guthrie, J.M., Blackwell, L.F., Conway, J.F., Rakonjac, J. (2015) Ff-nano, short functionalized nanorods derived from Ff (f1, fd, or M13) filamentous bacteriophage. Front Microbiol April 20;6(316)

2. Lacbay, C. M., Mancuso, J., Lin, Y. S., Bennett N., Gotte M., Tsantrizos Y. S. (2014). Modular Assembly of Purine-like Bisphosphonates as Inhibitors of HIV-1 Reverse Transcriptase. J Med Chem 57(17): 7435-7449.

3. Bennett N, Götte M. (2012) Utility of the Bacteriophage RB69 Polymerase gp43 as a Surrogate Enzyme for Herpesvirus Orthologs.Viruses.  Jan 8;5(1):54-86.

4. Bennett NJ, Gagic D, Sutherland-Smith AJ, Rakonjac J. (2011) Characterization of a dual-function domain that mediates membrane insertion and excision of Ff filamentous bacteriophage. Journal of Molecular Biology. Sep 2;411(5):972-85.

5. Rakonjac J, Bennett NJ, Spagnuolo J, Gagic D, Russel M. (2011) Filamentous bacteriophage: biology, phage display and nanotechnology applications. Current Issues in Molecular Biology. 13(2):51-76.

6. Bennett, N.J. & Rakonjac, J. (2006) Unlocking of the filamentous bacteriophage virion during infection is mediated by the C domain of pIII. Journal of Molecular Biology. 356, 266-273.

Placeholder-PhotoRaja Mukherjee


  • PhD in Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Chemistry Department in Boston College 2014-2016
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I am developing new chemical strategies for the synthesis of genetically-encoded macrocycle and bicycle libraries.

I did my doctoral research in synthetic organic chemistry under the supervision of Prof. Amit Basak in the department of chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and post-doctoral research in chemical biology (especially on genetic code expansion) with Prof. Abhishek Chatterjee at the Chemistry Department in Boston College, U.S.A.

In my post doctoral research, I have developed a leucyl amino acyl tRNA synthetase (aaRS) which is orthogonal in mammalian cell and which can thereby site specifically introduce a huge range of cysteine based leucyl type unnatural amino acids (UAA) containing a broad range of bio-othogonal handles like terminal azides, alkynes, alkenes, thiols, alcohols, halides, keto functionalities etc. The incorporation of these UAA’s are proved by protein mass spectroscopy, fluorescent labeling followed by mass spectroscopy and in-gel-fluorescence.

My doctoral research was mainly focused on the area of diradical generating systems, especially their mechanisms and application towards natural product synthesis. I have synthesized a series of 1-indole-3-yl carbazoles by using Garratt-Braverman Cyclization as a key step and extended this strategy towards the synthesis of an advanced intermediate en route to the naturally occurring alkaloid pityriazole. I have studied the AChE (Acetylcholineesterase) inhibition with the synthesized indolocarbazoles. I have also worked on the total synthesis of marine alkaloid analogue 7’-desmethylkealiiquinone of kealiiquinone class. Following the methodology I have also made some advancement towards the synthesis of the natural products of kealiinine family. In the initial year of my Ph.D, I got acquainted with the field of asymmetric catalysis comprising 2, 2’-dihydroxy azobenzene templated peptide based ligand design, synthesis and their application in the asymmetric cyclopropanation of a, b-unsaturated carbonyl systems.

Daniel_Ferrer Daniel Ferrer Vinals


  • B.Sc. in Biochemistry, University of Havana in 2008
  • Ph.D. candidate in Derda Lab since Sept. 2013


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Daniel’s research focus involves the development of genetically encoded glycopeptide libraries displayed in M13 phages and the use of these libraries to develop ligands for Galectin-3 protein.

Daniel has obtained his Bsc in Biochemistry from the University of Havana, Cuba in 2008. After completing his undergraduate training, Daniel  worked for a Biotech company in Havana, Cuba (Heber-Biotec.Sa) working for to the Clinical Research division on custom biochemical analysis of biological samples from clinical trials of biotech drugs. In the fall 2013  he joined to the Graduate Program of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Alberta, and started to work within  Dr. Derda’s group  as a graduate student, since September,2013. Daniel has obtained a Visiting Research Scholar Position within Derda lab for the period October,2012  until April, 2013  as he was awarded with one of the Emerging Leaders for Americas Program scholarships, funded by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) from Government of Canada.



P Kitov, D F Vinals , S Ng , K F Tjhung , and R Derda “Rapid, Hydrolytically Stable Modification of Aldehyde-terminated Proteins and Phage Libraries”, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2014, 136, 8149–8152.

AliAli (Ying) Chou


  • B.Sc., McGill University 2014
  • M.Sc. candidate in Derda Lab since Oct. 2014


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Ali is using genetically-encoded glycopeptide libraries to discover glycopeptide antigens for antibodies that recognize the fragments of cell wall of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (TB) (collaboration with Todd Lowary group). Long-term goal: serological diagnostic of TB.

Publications from Derda Lab:

1. K. F. Tjhung, F. Deiss, J. Tran, Y. Chou, R. Derda*, “Intra-domain phage display (ID-PhD) of peptides and mini-domain proteins censored from canonical pIII phage display, 2015 Front. Microbiol. 6:340.

2. H. Anany, Y. Chou, S Cucic, S. Evoy, R. Derda, MW Griffiths*, “From Bits and Pieces to Whole Phage to Nanomachines: Pathogen Detection Using Bacteriophage“, Annu. Rev. Food Sci. Tech., 2017, 8.

Placeholder-PhotoVivian Triana Guzman


  • B.Sc., Chemistry at Universidad del Valle, Cali (Colombia)
  • PhD Candidate in Derda Lab since Oct. 2015


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Vivian is developing strategies for genetic selection of chemical reactions that convert natural peptides to topologically-complex molecules (e.g., macrocycles and bi-cycles).

jeffJeffrey (Ying Kit) Wong


  • B.Sc., University of Alberta (2016)
  • PhD Candidate in Derda Lab since Sept. 2016


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Jeffrey is employing genetically-encoded chemical libraries to identify early drug leads that inhibit anti-tumor protein Nodal

Placeholder-PhotoYuki Kamijo


  • M.Sc., Applied Biological Sciences, Gifu University, Gifu, Japan (2016)
  • B.Sc., Applied Biological Sciences, Gifu University, Gifu, Japan.
  • Graduate student in Derda Lab since Sept. 2016
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Yuki is developing new microfluidics and microdroplet-based technology for selection of genetically-encoded libraries, to study nucleation of supercooled water. Yuki is also supervising high school students in project related to heterogeneous and light-directed water nucleation. Yuki’s awards include Silver medal of iGEM2014 Competition, “Circular mRNA – the world’s longest protein”, October 2014, (Boston, USA) and Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) Student Exchange Support Program Scholarship in September, 2015.

Placeholder-PhotoBifang He


  • Graduate student at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China
  • China Scholarship Council Exchange student in Derda Lab since Sept. 2016
Click to see more about Bifang...

Bifang is developing computational / bioinformatic tools for mining and sharing next-generation sequencing data emanation from genetically-encoded selection experiments.


Bifang He, Guoshi Chai,Yaocong Duan, Zhiqiang Yan, Liuyang Qiu,Huixiong Zhang,Zechun Liu, Qiang He, Ke Han, Beibei Ru, Feng-Biao Guo, Hui Ding, Hao Lin, Xianlong Wang, Nini Rao, Peng Zhou, and Jian Huang* BDB: biopanning data bank, Nucleic Acids Res. 2016, 44(Database issue): D1127–D1132

JessicaJessica Wickware


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Jessica joined Derda Lab in 2012, when she was an 11th grade high-school student. She was working on portable bacteria cultures for detection of antibiotic resistance. In 2014, she won the 1st prize in Alberta in Sanofi BioGenius competition for her work on taxol-resistance of breast cancer cells in paper-based 3D cultures. During summer 2014, she investigated differentiation of breast cancer stem cells using quantitative PCR. She started her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta in Sep 2014. Jessica is currently supervising high-school students from Harry Ainlay High School, who investigate freezing of super-cooled water.


1.  E. Lin, A. Sikhand, J. Wickware, Y. Hao and R Derda*  “Peptide Microarray Patterning for Controlling and Monitoring Cell GrowthActa Biomater., 2016, doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2016.01.028

Placeholder-PhotoKris Akkerman


  • Heritage Youth Researcher Summer (HIRS) Fellow, 2015
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High-School Outreach with Harry Ainlay School

Fall 2016 to present, Rifah Chowdhury, Preet Lat, Garrett Corkey and Hallie Trono high school students, volunteer in the Derda Lab. They are working on materials that trigger freezing of supercooled water.


Fall 2013 to Spring 2015, Patricia Yan and Amy Li, high school students, volunteer in the Derda Lab. They were involved in the development of the electrochemical detection of bacteria in paper-based culture devices.


Fall 2011 to Summer 2012, four high school students–Ally Wu, Eszter Szepesvari, Pavitra Rajendran, Nicholas Kwan-Wong–were involved in development of portable diagnostic devices for developing countries. They were co-authors on the manuscript in Lab on a Chip:

MF Huacca, A Wu, E Szepesvari, P Rajendran, N Kwan-Wong, A Razgulin, Y Shen, J Kagira, R Campbell, R Derda* “Portable cultures for phage and bacteria made of paper and tapeLab Chip2012, 12, 4269-4278

Derda Lab High School-Students