The Bressler Lab is comprised of many talented research scientists from all over the world!

Elisabeth Kezia Widjaja, MSc
Program Coordinator

Elisabeth is the Program Coordinator overseeing the Bressler lab’s finances and administration. Elisabeth obtained her master's degree in Bioresource technology at the University of Alberta through her research on the fermentation of byproduct streams from Air-Current Assisted Particle Separation (ACAPS) technology into bioethanol under the supervision of Dr. Bressler and Dr. Vasanthan. Prior to joining the lab, Elisabeth worked as a clinical research officer in a multinational pharmaceutical company, conducting clinical trials in drug development processes.

Jingui Lan, MSc
Analytical Technician

Jingui Lan has worked as an analytical technician in the Bressler lab since January 2007.  He trains and assists postdocs, graduate students, and other researchers with regards to the operation of lab infrastructure, and also maintains and troubleshoots these instruments.  He also performs routine lab management activities, oversees laboratory safety, and handles the ordering of supplies for the Bressler lab.

Currently, Jingui Lan is actively involved in two research projects in the Bressler lab:
1) Degradable Baler Twine for Improved Environmental Sustainability and Livestock Safety
2) Design and Preparation of Biodegradable Tackifiers Incorporating Animal Waste Protein

Marttin Gundupalli Paulraj, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Marttin Paulraj Gundupalli, an accomplished interdisciplinary researcher and Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta, possesses diverse expertise across microbiology, biochemistry, bioprocess engineering, environmental engineering, and bioenergy. His commitment to addressing pressing environmental challenges is evident in the broad spectrum of his research interests, including single-cell protein (SCP) production, ethanol synthesis from lignocellulosic biomass, breakdown of lignin, and crude oil production from lignocellulosic biomass. Marttin's proficiency in working with bacteria, yeast, and microalgae positions him as an expert in sustainable energy and bioprocess technologies. In his current project, Marttin oversees a crucial initiative focused on fermenting methanol using methylotroph to produce Single Cell Protein (SCP) for animal feed. This intricate process involves optimizing both fed-batch and continuous fermentation processes utilizing a state-of-the-art 5 L Bioreactor. Marttin's commitment extends beyond the laboratory, as he actively fosters collaboration and mentorship within the research team. His involvement spans various projects, including those related to pretreatment techniques, biorefining processes, and the publication of research findings. His extensive publication record, roles as a journal reviewer and editor, advisory responsibilities, and participation in international research programs underscore Marttin's unwavering dedication to advancing scientific knowledge and contributing to the broader scientific community.

Soniya Naik, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow

Soniya Naik, a postdoctoral fellow at Bressler’s lab, holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and is currently pioneering research in the bio-jet fuel project. As air transportation demands soar, the development of sustainable aviation fuels becomes increasingly critical. Her work builds on earlier findings that highlighted a substantial boost in branched hydrocarbon yields during lipid pyrolysis, an essential component that enhances jet fuel's freezing point. Her research is in on catalytic isomerization of these renewable hydrocarbons, focusing on synthesizing and characterizing catalysts to improve branching and cold flow properties, thereby meeting aviation industry standards. Pursuing a hydrogen-free methodology, she aims to deepen the understanding of this chemical process and enhance the cost-effectiveness of sustainable aviation fuel production. Her approach holds the potential for significant advancements in energy sustainability, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.

Victor Gonzalez Jimenez
PhD Candidate

Victor is a diligent and forward-thinking PhD candidate, deeply impassioned by the realm of sustainable development, with a specific focus on bioprocess and bioenergy. His academic trajectory commenced with the attainment of a Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology from the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes (Mexico), where he honed a robust foundation in biotechnology. Subsequently, he pursued a Master's degree in Bioprocess and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield (UK), immersing himself in preliminary research dedicated to the development of biofuels from genetically modified algae.

At present, he is engaged in doctoral studies at the esteemed University of Alberta, where his research is concentrated on the production of bacterial cultures adept at metabolizing low-value aromatic carbon sources, subsequently transforming them into high-value biomolecules conducive to drop-in fuel development. The goal of his work lies in increasing the sustainable value of a multifaceted process, generating drop-in fuels as its primary output. He is proud to have presented his works at the SPARK 2019 conference in Edmonton, AB, and the LignoBiotech Symposium 2022 in Vancouver, BC.

Extending beyond the confines of academia, he is fervently committed to fostering an inclusive, diverse, and positive work environment. His interest in continuous learning serves as a bedrock for enriching his perspectives and for adding a multidisciplinary approach in his research endeavors.

Andres Merino Restrepo
PhD Candidate

Andrés possesses a robust foundation in Biological Engineering and a Master of Science in Biotechnology from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. His academic path has been enriched by a research internship in the BioGroup at Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, underscoring his global research exposure. Currently, Andrés' research delves into the catalytic isomerization of renewable hydrocarbons. Leveraging the specificity of zeolites and pursuing a hydrogen-free methodology, his work seeks to understand this chemical process and enhance the cost-effectiveness of producing sustainable aviation fuel. This innovative approach promises a transformative impact on energy sustainability and aligns with global efforts to mitigate climate change.

With a research tenure exceeding ten years, Andrés' scholarly contributions encompass the strategic utilization of lignocellulosic materials for pollutant adsorption and the employment of fungal enzymes for the degradation of synthetic dyes. His findings have been disseminated through peer-reviewed international journals, reflecting his dedication to advancing the field of biotechnology. In the realm of academia, Andrés has transcended his role as a researcher to become an educator. His pedagogical journey has taken him from facilitating scientific empowerment in Colombia's indigenous communities to teaching advanced agri-chemical analysis and technical communications in Canada. His commitment to fostering the next generation of scientists is mirrored in his teaching engagements at the Peter Lougheed Leadership College in adaptive and social leadership.

Beyond the laboratory, Andrés is actively involved with the Catholic Students' Association and several social justice initiatives, where his contributions resonate with his advocacy for science, education, and faith. His multifaceted involvement illustrates a commitment to not only scientific inquiry but also to the cultivation of an integrated, socially responsible scientific community.

Bernardo Araujo Souto
PhD Candidate 

Bernardo obtained his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at the Federal University of Itajuba, Brazil. He worked as an undergraduate researcher in organic synthesis, focused on the microwave approach to obtain possible bioactive compounds. After that, Bernardo worked as an intern at the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials, when he studied the synthesis of bioactive compounds for heart disease. At the end of his undergraduate, he participated in the Mitacs internship when he joined Dr. Bressler’s lab to work on preliminary studies on microwave heating for the Lipid-to Hydrocarbon (LTH) project.

Nowadays, he is pursuing his Ph.D. degree at Dr. Bressler’s lab, working on the bio-jet fuel project. With the increasing demand for air transportation, the investigation of biofuel production for aviation is necessary to develop a sustainable fuel. Previous work at the lab showed the application of short alkene gases enhanced the branched hydrocarbons yield. This essential fuel fraction improves its freezing point, which is a desirable property for jet fuel. In this way, Bernardo’s research is focused on optimizing processes with four-carbon compounds to improve branching and cold flow properties to meet aviation industry standards, using model lipid compounds and the real feedstock. In addition, the study will focus on understating how the structural variability may affect the properties of the bio-jet fuel.

Yueh-Hao (Ronny) Hung
PhD Candidate

Yueh-Hao acquired his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Food Science at the National Taiwan Ocean University. His previous research focused on the development of biorefinery process for seaweeds by utilizing multiple marine bacterial enzymes and fermentation systems. Yueh-Hao is currently pursuing his Ph.D. degree in Food Science at the University of Alberta, specifically working on fermentation engineering under the supervision of Dr. Bressler and Dr. Sauvageau.

Global energy demand is increasing because of population and economic growth. To fulfill that demand, biofuels have been considered as an alternative to fossil fuels, which are the traditional energy sources. Dr. Bressler’s and Dr. Sauvageau’s labs have developed an automated self-cycling fermentation (SCF) system and a proof-of-concept that SCF improves overall productivity of ethanol compared to the conventional microbial batch fermentation. To expand the ability of cellulosic ethanol using as fuel, Yueh-Hao is researching in the SCF systems and different fermentation strategies. He aims at building a well-developed fermentation system that can help operators to acquire desire products and boost production efficiency.

Bingxin Hai
PhD Candidate

In alignment with the global movement towards energy transition collaboration, Bingxin is dedicated to contributing to this transformative effort. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Bioresource Technology, her research builds upon prior findings that demonstrated a significant increase in the yield of branched hydrocarbons during lipid pyrolysis when short-chain alkenes are introduced. These hydrocarbons are crucial for enhancing the properties of aviation fuels, such as a reduced freezing point. Bingxin's current focus lies in investigating the reaction chemistries inherent in fatty acids and propylene pyrolysis, with the overarching goal of advancing the viability and competitiveness of sustainable aviation fuels.

Before joining the group, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science with Honors from the University of Alberta. Along her academic journey, she gained valuable experience through multiple internships in diverse industries, including both the food sector and the energy industry. This background equips her with a holistic perspective as she dedicates herself to the pursuit of innovative solutions within sustainable energy.

Frehiwot Hailu
MSc Student 

Frehiwot received her BSc and MSc in Chemical Engineering (Process Stream) from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Immediate after graduation, she became a lecturer at Wolkite University, Ethiopia till July 2021. On top of that, she took IT, business innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship courses in order to mold herself in various ways. In September 2021, she joined the LTH (Lipid to Hydrocarbon) research group as MSc student under the supervision of Dr. Bressler.

Energy generation and waste disposal are two most difficult challenges facing the world today. In this way, lipid appears to be the logical choice to produce renewable hydrocarbons, since it is abundant and available all over the world. Moreover, these hydrocarbons are ecofriendly and sustainable biofuels capable of helping meet the global demand. As Frehiwot is interested in a research area that collaborates both academy and industry which means transfer of knowledge into practice (to the real world), her research mainly focuses on removal of contaminants specifically sulfur to meet stringent fuel standards for intended application.

Zakaria Mohamed Said Kaal
MSc Student 

Zakaria holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science and management from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. During that time, he developed an interest in renewable energy, specifically renewable liquid fuels. This growing interest resulted in a short stint at the biomass energy lab at the University of Malaya upon graduation, where the focus of his work was the conversion of agricultural residues to biodiesel. Zakaria is interested in bridging the gap between academia and industry, aiming to conduct research that has impacts outside of the laboratory environment. Collaborations and interactions with industry are paramount in ensuring academic research has real world results. Currently, Zakaria is researching methods of upgrading the diesel cut of the LTH process into jet fuel to aid in meeting the increasing demand on renewable jet fuels.

Minh Dao
MSc Student 

Minh obtained his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Victoria (Canada). He had worked for 8 months as a co-op student at the Lallemand’s Process R&D lab (Montreal), where he operated industrial bioreactors, and processed fermentation harvests into final products. Minh then held the research assistant position for 1 year at the Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology (Hanoi, Vietnam), where he optimized of the growth and preservation (freeze and spray drying) of various probiotic species, and cultivated them in bioreactors. Currently, Minh is pursuing his master’s degree in bioresource technology at the Bressler Lab.

Lipids are a valuable commodity that can be used for many applications such as dietary supplements and biofuel production, and is mainly harvested from plants and animals. For this reason, Minh hopes to expand the list of lipid producers by finding microorganisms that efficiently convert methanol, a cheap and abundant feedstock, to lipids. His work involves the enrichment, selection, isolation, screening, and identification of microorganisms from various environments to find the suitable candidates for the said conversion. He also plans to genetically modify his isolated microbes to enhance their lipid production in the future.

Haley Wolgien
MSc Student 

Haley obtained her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from Concordia University of Edmonton and also holds a technical diploma in Chemical Technology from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. Her undergraduate research involved developing analytical methods for the determination of advanced glycation end products in both laboratory and food matrices. Outside of academia, Haley has extensive work experience undertaking product development of cosmetic, nutraceutical, and food formulations. She also has experience in process development, scale-up, and pilot plant operations of natural health products obtained from working at the University of Alberta’s Agri-Food Discovery Place. Haley is now engaged in a master’s degree in bioresource technology under the supervision of Dr. David C. Bressler at the University of Alberta. Her research addresses the issues around conventional animal feed sources and their implications for global food availability.

The soy and fishing industries are largely devoted to producing protein for animal feed, which contributes to deforestation, strip mining of our oceans, and food insecurity. Given these concerns as well as the growing world population, it is desirable to find alternative sources of animal feed protein so soy and fish can be redirected for human consumption. The Bressler Lab is developing an alternative protein source called single cell protein, which is produced through fermentation of bacteria. Haley’s research focuses on developing a scalable downstream processing system to separate the fermentation product to obtain single cell protein in a form suitable for animal feed.

Domenic Marano
Undergraduate Student 

Domenic is currently an undergraduate student and will obtain his Biochemistry degree here at the University of Alberta in August. His undergraduate research has largely involved synthetic biology in the realm of probiotic development and the determination of lipid biosynthetic pathways in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Previously, he worked 8 months as a co-op student at TECK Technical Services in Trail, British Columbia where he worked primarily on various Biomining and Bioweathering experiments. In the Bressler lab, Domenic’s work will involve the optimization of continuous downstream unit operations for cell recovery and protein stabilization based on the former ICI Pruteen process.

Preston Tran
Undergraduate Student 

Preston obtained his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry with Honors from the University of Alberta. His undergraduate research led him to develop an interest for synthetic biology and its applications in industry. During his studies, Preston worked to modify a diverse array of bacteria, yeast and fungi for purposes ranging from nanobody secretion to biofuel production. More recently, he worked to engineer Aspergillus oryzae to express bovine myoglobin, laying the foundation for a beef alternative. Preston was also part of a team that represented the University of Alberta at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, earning a silver medal in 2023. He focused on developing a biological sensor for Fusarium head blight (FHB) in cereal crops utilizing fluorescence and an autonomous drone system. In the Bressler lab, Preston’s work will involve optimizing methanol fermentation for the production of single cell protein (SCP), building on the former ICI Pruteen process.

Some of past members:

Research associates and technicians:

  • Dr. Justice Asomaning (2023)
  • Dr. Michael Chae (2022)
  • Heather Jimmy (2022)
  • Koel Reed (2021)
  • Alaleh Boroomand (2020)
  • Amin Karkooti (2020)
  • Fiona Cromwell (2020)
  • Ikuba (John) Ona (2020)
  • Nian Sun (2017)
  • Julia Prochnau (2017)
  • Alexandra Macdonell-Whiddon (2014)
  • Garson Law (2013)

Postdoctoral fellows:

  • Dr. Sara Ansari (2024)
  • Dr. Jaquelinne Pires Vital da Costa (2024)
  • Dr. Aneeshma Peter (2023)
  • Dr. Ramesh Arumugam (2023)
  • Dr. Fatemeh Bakhtiari Ziabari (2023)
  • Dr. Reza Ahmadi (2023)
  • Dr. Afees Ayandiran (2023)
  • Dr. Lisandra Meneses (2021)
  • Dr. Jie Wang (2021)
  • Dr. Yeling Zhu (2021)
  • Dr. John Hawk (2020)
  • Dr. Mahfuzul Hoque (2020)
  • Dr. Dawit Beyene (2020)
  • Dr. Maryam Hawk (2020)
  • Dr. Vinay Khatri (2019)
  • Dr. Lizzette Moreno Garcia (2019)
  • Dr. Afrooz Farjoo (2018)
  • Dr. Mattia Bartoli (2018)
  • Dr. Justice Asomaning (2018)
  • Dr. Birendra Adhikari (2018)
  • Dr. Afrooz Farjoo (2018)
  • Dr. Jing Dai (2017)
  • Dr. Mehdi Omidghane (2016)
  • Dr. Gurpreet Dillon (2014)
  • Dr. Archana Parashar (2014)
  • Dr. Ali Kebabi (2012)

PhD Students:

  • Dagem Haddis (2024)
  • Jie Wang (2020)
  • Tao Shui (2020)
  • Dawit Beyene (2019)
  • Erin Dul (2015)
  • Michael George (2015)
  • Maria Espinosa Gonzalez (2014)
  • Justice Asomaning (2014)
  • Tizazu Mekonnen (2014)
  • Yuko Ikeda (2013)

MSc Students:

  • Elisabeth Kezia Widjaja (2023)
  • Fantahun Bitew (2023) 
  • Damaris Okafor (2022)
  • Uche (Emanuella) Sea-Nduka (2021)
  • Samuel Koranteng (2021)
  • Jesse Yuzik (2020)
  • Yeye Lu (2019)
  • Hector Vargas (2019)
  • Chengyong Zhu (2019)
  • Susan Haupt (2019)
  • Olga Mameeva (2017)
  • Lin Xia (2017)
  • Yiqiong Jin (2014)
  • Koel Reed (2012)


  • Rishika Mohanty (2023)
  • Zoe Katharina Heite (2023)
  • Annabel Spencer (2022)
  • Tania Jael Trucios Ramirez (2022)
  • Luis Miguel Salas Chia (2022)
  • Krithika Ananthakrishnan (2022)
  • Annika Deppe (2021)
  • Ethan Woudstra (2021)
  • Pahul Sapra (2021)
  • Samuel Villeneuve (2021)
  • Bernardo Araujo Souto (2019)
  • Jing Wu (2019)
  • Danyang Cheng (2019)
  • Gitanshu Bhatia (2018)