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Andrew L. Lee, PhD

Principal Investigator (

Andrew Lee studies the role of conformational dynamics in protein function, conformational changes, enzyme catalysis, drug binding, and allostery. His laboratory uses a variety of biophysical and biochemical tools, especially NMR spectroscopy. NMR spectroscopy is a powerful approach that yields atomic-resolution molecular information and is uniquely sensitive to molecular fluctuations over a broad range of timescales.

Andrew Lee received his BA in chemistry at Pomona College in 1989. For his PhD work at UC Berkeley (supervised by David E. Wemmer), he studied NMR spectroscopy as a method for structure determination of RNA-binding proteins. For his postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania (with A. Joshua Wand), he studied the use of NMR relaxation methods for probing the role of motional dynamics in protein stability and molecular recognition.

Paul J. Sapienza, PhD

Research Assistant Professor (

Paul Sapienza is a research assistant professor in the Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. His research aims to further understand the role of dynamics in biomolecular recognition, enzymatic catalysis, and allostery. He uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study protein dynamics on multiple timescales, while other tools such as calorimetry, crystallography, kinetics, and molecular dynamics serve to link dynamics with function. Currently he is adapting click chemistry and single subunit isotopic labeling to generate “Mixed Labeled Dimers” to provide a unique view of allosteric intermediates.

Sapienza received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Pitt and at UNC-Chapel Hill before joining the School’s faculty in 2011.

Darex J. Vera-Rodríguez

Graduate Student (

Darex is a graduate student in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Program at the UNC School of Medicine. He studies chorismate mutase (CM) as a protein model to understand how conformational dynamics influence allosteric communication. He uses nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and fluorescence assays to investigate CM’s allosteric role in its functional regulation.

Darex received his bachelor’s degree in industrial biotechnology with a minor in project management from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. He completed post-baccalaureate training at the University of Maryland, Baltimore under the direction of Dr. David J. Weber. He joined UNC in 2020 to start his Ph.D. training. 

Lab Alumni

PhD Students, where they went next, and where they are now

Michael “Sparky” Clarkson (2005) – postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University (Dorothee Kern), Genentech

Josh Boyer (2009) – postdoctoral fellow at Penn State (Philip Bevilacqua) and UNC-Chapel Hill (Qi Zhang)

Randy Mauldin (2009) – postdoctoral fellow at MIT (Bob Sauer), Sanofi 

Matthew Whitley (2010) – postdoctoral fellow at University of Pittsburgh (Angela Gronenborn), National Laboratory for Cancer Research 

Mary Carroll/Harner (2011) – postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt (Stephen Fesik), Bristol Myers Squibb

Jun Zhang (2011) – postdoctoral fellow at the NIH (Traci Hall), Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama Birmingham

Tony Law (2011) – MD at UNC, Assistant Professor at Emory 

Leanna McDonald (2013) – postdoctoral fellow at University of Minnesota (Gianluigi Veglia), Fusion Medical

Brad Falk (2017) – postdoctoral fellow at Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb

Jeffrey P. Bonin (2022) – postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto (Lewis Kay)

Postdoctoral Fellows, and where they are now

Ernesto Fuentes (2005) – Associate Professor, University of Iowa

Paul Sapienza (2011) – Research Assistant Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill

Chad Petit (2012) – Associate Professor, University of Alabama Birmingham

Maria McGresham (2016) – Carterra-Bio

Dinusha P. Jinasena (2021) – KBI-Biopharma

Abha Jain (2023) – Research Associate, UNC-Chapel Hill (Craig E. Cameron)

Undergraduate Researchers, and where they went next

Amos Fung (May 2015 – Dec 2015) 

Craig Gambogi (2016) – Ph.D. Candidate, Penn Biophysics  

Andrew Vitkus (2017) – Software developer JMP/SAS 

Noah Lancaster (2020) – Ph.D. Candidate, University of Wisconsin, Madison Chemistry

Ashleigh J. Williamson (2022)