Anderson Biophysics Research Group - About Research

About Our Researchers


Principal Investigator

Rae Robertson-Anderson received her PhD in physics from the University of California, San Diego in 2007. Her research, supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, focused on understanding molecular transport and intermolecular forces in entangled DNA systems. Following her PhD, Rae spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. David Millar’s lab in the Molecular Biology Department at The Scripps Research Institute. Her research at TSRI, supported by a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Training Fellowship, employed total internal reflection microscopy to investigate the binding kinetics of the HIV-1 regulatory protein REV to viral RNA.

After first falling in love with physics in high school in Cincinnati, Rae continued to pursue physics as an undergraduate at Georgetown University, funded by a Clare Boothe Luce Undergraduate Scholarship. Rae received a B.S. in Physics from Georgetown in 2003 where her thesis focused on the diffusion of granular material. Because her undergraduate experience had such a powerful impact on her, she wanted to join a physics department at a liberal arts institution that prized undergraduate teaching and research as much what she experienced at Georgetown - which brought her to University of San Diego.

Anderson joined the Department of Physics and Biophysics at USD in 2009. Here she serves as Program Coordinator for the interdisciplinary Biophysics Major, which she designed and introduced in 2011, and has served as Chair of the department since 2015. Anderson has been awarded several prestigious grants during her time at USD including an NSF CAREER Award and an AFOSR Young Investigator Award. She has also been named a Cottrell Scholar, a Councilor for the Council on Undergraduate Research, and USD Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year.

Dr. Anderson's CV may be accessed here.

Current Researchers

Karthik' Photo Karthik Reddy Peddireddy, PhD 
Karthik obtained his PhD from Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen, Germany. He investigated interfacial instabilities in liquid crystal-water systems during his PhD. As a postdoctoral researcher in our group, his work focuses on mapping molecular-level dynamics to mesoscale mechanics in composite DNA-based biomaterials. His favorite person on the planet is his niece. He loves volleyball, cycling, experiencing new cultures and traditions. More details about his research background are available here    

Bekele' Photo Bekele Gurmessa, PhD 
Bekele Gurmessa received his PhD from North Dakota State University department of Physics in 2015. His graduate work focused on exploring the mechanical behavior of nanoscale polymer films and colloidal particle layers. He recently joined our group as a post-doctoral researcher where he is interested in investigating the mechanical properties of biological polymers of varying topologies, stiffnesses and sizes from the molecular-level to mesoscales using optical trapping-coupled with- fluorescence microscopy techniques. Bekele enjoys spending his spare time with his two sons and playing tennis. More information are available here    

Shea' Photo Shea Ricketts
Shea Ricketts earned her B.A. in Biophysics from the University of San Diego in 2018. Shea became interested in biophysics as a second year undergrad when learning about its vast applications in biomedical sciences and materials engineering, to name a few. As such, she has been conducting research on the cytoskeleton in the Robertson-Anderson Lab since summer 2016. Specifically, Shea aims to characterize the relationship between force and deformation and network mobility and integration in varying cytoskeletal composites of actin and microtubules. During her undergraduate research, Shea has been a recipient of SURE, a research grant funded by the University of San Diego, Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention, and a Beckman College Fellowship by the University of San Diego. Shea also ran distance for the Toreros NCAA D1 Cross Country where she was named the 2018 West Coast Conference Female Sportsmanship Award recipient. Shea plans to take her research experience to graduate school to pursue a PhD in biomedical sciences.    

William' Photo Kathryn Regan
Kathryn is a Biophysics major and Math minor planning to graduate in Spring of 2018. She first began working in Dr. Anderson’s lab in November of 2015, focusing her work on the dynamics of crowded and entangled DNA. She continued her research in Summer of 2016 with the aid of a SURE grant, where she focused her studies on the dynamics of DNA and microtubules as quantified through single molecule particle tracking, specifically the diffusion and conformational changes of the DNA molecules as they interact with polymerized and unpolymerized microtubules. In the Anderson lab, she has also taken a lead role in the cultivation and maintenance of DNA stocks of various conformations and topologies. She is passionate about working with DNA due to its biological importance and complexity, and plans on carrying on her academic career in a PhD program in either Biophysics or Bioengineering in the hopes that her previous experience with DNA dynamics can contribute to developments in drug delivery or regenerative medicine techniques. Kathryn also serves as a Residential Assistant to freshmen as well as an active leader of USD’s Society of Physics Students. When she is not in lab, she enjoys hiking, baking with friends, and volunteering with local high school science departments.    

Roberts' Photo Robert Fitzpatrick
Robert Fitzpatrick is majoring in Biophysics and is planning to graduate in Fall 2017. He has been interested in Biophysics since learning that the study combines the best of physics, biology, and chemistry to form a new understanding of our world. He hopes to attend medical school after graduation. Robert has been working in Anderson Labs since before his freshman year at USD and as his research continues so does his interest in the field of biophysics. His research focuses on understanding the viscoelastic properties of actin polymer networks and biopolymer blend networks. This research hopes to create a better understanding of cellular and molecular biology and can also lead to new synthetic materials based on the natural phenomena found in actin and other biopolymers. Along with being a full time student and doing research Robert is a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, a Red Cross Blood Drive Coordinator, volunteer at UCSD Hospital, and member of Society of Physics Students.    

Sylas' Photo Sylas Anderson
Sylas Anderson is a Junior Biophysics major with a double minor in Chemistry and Business Administration. Sylas has developed his interest in biophysics and more specifically in DNA diffusion because of a personal connection to its possible impact on DNA-linked drug delivery. Through research in how DNA moves through the cytoplasm of the cell, it is possible to create better drugs that use DNA as a gene therapy delivery system which can be used to fight genetic disorders like ataxia telangiectasia (A-T). He started working in Dr. Anderson’s lab in October of 2017, working with DNA until the summer of 2018. This is where he began his first project on DNA diffusion in crowded, cross-linked cytoskeletal environments. With the help of the University of San Diego’s SURE grant, he continues his research on DNA diffusion in Dr. Anderson’s lab.    

Hannah's Photo Hannah Rasmussen
Hannah Rasmussen is a Physics and Math double major at the University of San Diego who plans to graduate in the spring of 2021. She has been interested in physics ever since she learned that it governs the smallest sub-atomic particles to the most massive galaxies. This summer she is studying the structure of filamentous actin and microtubules networks with the ultimate goal of understanding how these structures affect DNA dynamics. She is grateful to be studying under Dr. Ryan McGorty’s grant and is excited for all that she is learning through her research. When she is not in the lab, Hannah loves to be active. She is busy training as a member of USD’s Division I Cross Country and Track and Field teams, but she loves to bike, go to the beach, or explore San Diego when she is not running. As a sophomore, Hannah’s still not quite sure how she wishes to spend her time after graduating, but she is very excited by all of the opportunities that research and USD’s outstandings programs have presented to her.    

Maggie's Photo Margaret Scholle
Maggie is a Biophysics major and Math minor and is planning to graduate in the spring of 2021. Maggie became interested in Biophysics due to the range of cross-disciplinary opportunities with a range of science fields. She began working in the lab in the summer of 2018. Maggie is a member of the Cross Country and Track teams at USD, and an avid fan of anything outdoors!    

Joseph's Photo Joseph Phillips
Joseph Phillips is a senior in high school and plans on graduating in 2019. He began interning for Dr. Anderson’s lab in the summer of 2018 and focused his work on programing in MatLab. In the Anderson lab, Joseph works on programing a matrix to keep track of particle tracking data that stores the positions of the particles with the given particle number; also, he attempts to make a user interface that allows for the interaction with the matrix previously generated, and thus leading one having the ability to never capitulate to the sluggish behavior of WET code. Notwithstanding, his hobbies beyond his propensity for laboratory solidarity are an amalgamation of philosophical, mathematical, and physical science readings.    


Dr. Jennifer Ross is Associate Professor in the Physics Department at UMass, Amherst. We are currently collaborating to create active materials from microtubules and actin coupled to the circadian oscillatory KaiABC system from cyanobacteria. Click here to go to Dr. Ross' webpage.

Dr. Michael Rust is Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at University of Chicago. We are currently collaborating to create active materials from microtubules and actin coupled to the circadian oscillatory KaiABC system from cyanobacteria. Click here to go to Dr. Rust's webpage.

Dr. Dimitri Deheyn is Associate Professor in the Marine Biology Research Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. We are researching the rheological properties and bioluminescence of the mucus produced by chaetopterid marine tube worms. Click here to go to Dr. Deheyn's webpage.

Dr. Omar Saleh is Associate Professor in the Department of Materials and Biomolecular Science & Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. We are researching the salt-dependent microrheological properties of novel aging DNA-star hydrogels. Click here to go to Dr. Saleh's webpage.

Dr.Gregory McKenna, is Professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at Texas Tech University. We are currently collaborating with McKenna to characterize the macroscopic rheological properties of entangled linear and circular DNA, and optimizing purification of long circular DNA molecules. Click here to go to Dr. McKenna's webpage.

Dr. Charles Schroeder, is Associate Professor in the Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Department at UIUC. We are currently collaborating with Schroeder to characterize the single molecule extensional flow dynamics and relaxation of long circular DNA molecules. Click here to go to Dr. Schroeder's webpage.