Hi there! Sit down and meet the team!

lab members


Dimitri Deheyn : Associate Research Scientist and Lecturer

Dimitri Deheyn

Associate Research Scientist and Lecturer

My research expertise deals with light production and manipulation in organisms, embracing the full range of scientific opportunities, from fundamental exploration and mechanistic description to potential application for biomedical, bioengineering and/or biotechnological applications.

I have received my Ph.D. from the Free University of Brussels (Belgium) in Marine Sciences, with emphasis on Marine Biology; therefore my model organisms are mainly marine (brittlestars, worms, snails, fish), yet I also conduct research with freshwater (fish) and terrestrial species (butterfly, birds).

I have been conducting my research at SIO since 2004.

Noah Martin : Staff

Noah Martin


My research with the Deheyn Lab aims to uncover how octopuses and other cephalopods sense their 3 dimensional environment to modify skin texture for camouflage, with the goal of informing and improving bio-inspired sensing and camouflage technology.

I am currently an Undergraduate at UC Berkeley where I also study octopuses, focusing there on their behavior and personality. I hope to continue to pursue my passion for cephalopods with a PhD at SIO, with the ultimate goal of becoming one of the worlds experts on octopuses. In my free time I enjoy surfing, diving, and playing water polo.

Jessica Sandoval : PhD Student

Jessica Sandoval

PhD Student

I am an avid explorer, biology-enthusiast, and engineer who is passionate about exploring the oceans. I am working towards completing my doctorate degree in the field of biomimetics and biomechanics at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), working with Dr. Dimitri Deheyn and Dr. Michael Tolley (Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab). My research encompasses biomimetics and recently includes understanding spatial distributions of microplastics/microfibers. My research allows me to study biology (ie suction discs of fishes) to inform and better engineer material systems. For part of the year, I also work as a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) pilot on adventures to the deep sea where we sample and learn from the incredible biology and geology of the sea floor.

I received my B.S. from MIT in Biological Engineering, and my M.S. from UCSD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

**Photo by Ed McNichol

Ethan Staats : PhD Student

Ethan Staats

PhD Student

I'm a Marine Biology PhD student, joining the Deheyn Lab in autumn 2020. I'm an evolutionary and community ecologist with an experience/research background in herpetological conservation, and in species and community responses to anthropogenic change. I completed my Bachelor's degree at Hartwick College in New York, my home-state, and my Master's degree at Virginia Commonwealth University.

I am interested in studying biofluorescence from the proximate (what biological compounds and structures fluoresce, and how do they do it?), to the medial (what organisms biofluoresce, and in what ways is biofluorescence meaningful to organisms that do it, or to sympatric organisms; what does biofluorescence do?), to the ultimate (what behavioral and environmental needs and circumstances select for the evolution of biofluorescence?).

Laura Gong : Master Student

Laura Gong

Master Student

I am currently a master student in Marine Biology. I graduated from UC Berkeley majoring in Molecular Environmental Biology. I am fascinated by cool adaptations of marine animals and intrigued to understand their mechanisms and how natural and anthropogenic disturbances affect them. I used to study animal behaviors of jumping spiders and six-armed sea stars in relation to their habitats and phylogeny. In the Deheyn lab, my research focuses on the physical and biochemical mechanisms of bioluminescence in marine animals, which could be further used for applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. Although I love doing research, I have other hobbies such as dancing, rock climbing, skiing, snorkeling and hiking.

Alana Rosen : Master Student

Alana Rosen

Master Student

I am a Masters student in the Marine Biology program. I received my Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Delaware in 2019. My research in the lab focuses on sea anemone biofluorescence and the impacts of sunscreen traces in the sea water on this fluorescence. My fascination with marine biology centers around organism physiology, behavior and ability of marine organizms to adapt to changing environmental conditions. I am particularly interested in how organisms develop and use certain characteristics, like bioluminescence or biofluorescence.

Aside from my marine conservation passion, I enjoy photography, hiking, snorkeling and diving. I’m excited to be a part of this lab and I look forward to the research I’ll explore!

Sarah Romero : Undergraduate Student

Sarah Romero

Undergraduate Student

I am a fourth year Marine Biology student studying at UCSD. I am interested in studying how common sunscreens affect coral. My research focuses on how sunscreen affects the green fluorescent proteins in coral tissue and photosynthetic efficiency of its symbiotic zooxanthellae. I am grateful to be part of the Deheyn lab and it's wonderful community. I am a member of Scripps Education Association on SIO campus and enjoy surfing in my free time.

Alysia Daines : Undergraduate Student Intern

Alysia Daines

Undergraduate Student Intern

As a Visiting Scholar in the Deheyn Lab my research encompasses a twofold approach to the ecotoxicology of Microfibers by addressing this contaminant through the use of bioluminescence as a proxy for toxicity, and methods of microfiber generation from various fabrics in order to understand the different variables that play into their release in the environment, and how this may negatively impact living organisms.

It is my hope that by standardizing these methods for understanding the scope of plastic pollution, will allow for researchers globally to tackle this problem. As well as communicate effectively with the public in order to create a sense of trust and community where we all take responsibility for our choices not only in plastic consumption but in how we treat our environment.

My background lies in Environmental Microbiology, Aero-Microbiology, and Environmental Management. And I am currently studying at the Erhvervsakademi Aarhus & Aarhus University in Denmark working on my senior thesis. And as a US citizen who has studied in the US and now studied and researched in Denmark, it has been my absolute pleasure to bring my global knowledge and experiences home to Scripps Institution of Oceanography where I plan to continue with my Ph.D.

Nikki Arm : Volunteer

Nikki Arm


My passion for both robotics and marine biology have inspired me to pursue a career exploring, researching, and protecting the deep sea. I am an undergraduate student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where I major in Mechanical Engineering and also work as a technician and safety supervisor in the department's machine shops.
I'm thrilled to be spending my summers in my home town of San Diego working in the Deheyn lab at SIO, where my current research is studying communication and biological function of different invertebrates from electromagnetic energy generated by these organisms. I am also testing the function of a novel analytical device called the B.U.M.P. (Benthic Underwater Microscopic PAM). I've previously worked on and continue to support efforts focusing on image analysis and algorithm development to help quantify microplastics/microfiber pollution in the oceans, and the development of robotic systems able to precisely function in high pressure environments like the deep sea. I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Marine Biology at Scripps after finishing my B.S. at Cal Poly, and ultimately aim to design and build research submarines and underwater ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) to explore the deepest parts of the ocean.
Sarah Bartels : Volunteer

Sarah Bartels


I am an undergraduate student at UC San Diego majoring in Marine Biology and minoring in Environmental Studies. As a volunteer at the Deheyn Lab I am assisting PhD student Jessica Sandoval with her research on the suction discs of fishes. We are investigating the structures behind their incredible adhesion ability for technological applications. I am especially interested in studying the astounding biological properties found in nature and finding new and innovative ways to apply these features to new technology. In my free time I enjoy exploring tide pools, painting, traveling, and backpacking.

Mara Casebeer : Volunteer

Mara Casebeer


I am a second year undergraduate student at UCSD majoring in Physics with a specialization in Biophysics. Right now I am working on a radiobio project on whether cells communicate with each other via radio frequencies. My research interests are focused on medically relevant problems and systems in biological physics which can be studied through computational modeling and experimental techniques. I'm excited to be a part of the Deheyn Lab and I'm looking forward to working on more projects in the future.

Ryan Chung : Volunteer

Ryan Chung


I am an undergraduate marine biology student at the University of California, San Diego. As a volunteer at the Deheyn Lab, I am working with Kara Wiggin to better understand the degradation and detection of plastic microfibers. In my spare time I like to go on runs and take naps.I am grateful to be a part of the lab and can’t wait to get more engaged in research.

Emmy Ibrahimovic : Volunteer

Emmy Ibrahimovic


I am very grateful to be part of the Deheyn Lab community, and biomimicry particularly interests me. I think it is fascinating to explore Nature's genius and apply what we've learned from Nature into our modern lives and technologies. In the lab, I am working on a project with the ice plants. We are figuring out what purpose the bubbles serve, hypothesizing that they may protect the plant from UV rays and enhance photosynthesis. In relation to biomimicry, these ice plants ultimately have the potential to improve the efficiency of solar panels. I am super stoked to work with and learn from these unique plants in such a welcoming community at SIO!

Additionally, I am an undergraduate transfer student at UC San Diego, majoring in Environmental Systems: Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. I am transferring from University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. As beautiful as it was over there, San Diego is my home. I love our sunny beaches here, and I enjoy long beach walks, meditation, dance, vegan food, and swimming in my free time. I am also an intern for the Scripps Coastal Reserve at UC San Diego, where we lead in-person and virtual hikes. Essentially, my greatest passion is connecting with Nature, so being in the Deheyn Lab feels just right!

Amy Ly : Volunteer

Amy Ly


I am a third-year undergraduate at UC San Diego studying Earth Sciences. In my interest of plastic degradation, I am volunteering in the Deheyn lab and helping count microfibers from digital images of filters that were used to filter seawater. Besides plastics, I’d also like to work with Python programming and GIS (geographic information system) in hopes of specializing in computational geosciences.

Debra Quick-Jones : Volunteer

Debra Quick-Jones


I am by training a Doctor of Optometry, working at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, but my passion is for the ocean. I am fortunate to be volunteering in the Dehehn lab doing background research on the visual ecology of fishes. Future projects may concentrate on the vision of species that transition from aquatic to aerial life in the course of their development, such as the dragonfly. I am also interested in certain predator fish how their vision works with in response to their environment. Hyperspectral spectrometry is one technique used to measure retinal sensitivity.

Anjali Phadnis : Volunteer

Anjali Phadnis


The Deheyn Lab is my first opportunity to explore and develop my growing interest for science. Currently, I am studying the Ice Plants and the purpose of the EBC's (Epidermal Bladder Cells) that cover the majority of the plant and how their potential ability to increase photosynthetic success can influence modern day technology.

I am currently a sophomore at Pacific Ridge School. I play for my school's varsity tennis team and am a part of a chamber ensemble at school, and youth orchestra where I play the French horn.

Emily Tianshi : Volunteer

Emily Tianshi


Southern California has been severely drought-plagued for a decade. Harvesting water from air is an innovative way to alleviate the freshwater crisis. Torrey Pine trees are well known for their ability to harvest moisture. My research is focused on learning its surface structures and properties at a microscopic level and applying the findings to a water harvesting material or device.
I am an upcoming junior in high school and a quirky, curious scientist and engineer. I am a winner in multiple national science fairs, such as Intel ISEF, JSHS, and Broadcom MASTERS, and serve as the captain of my robotics team. Outside of the STEM world, I am a varsity golf player and known as "the pun master" among my friends.

Britney Volckaert : Volunteer

Britney Volckaert


I am a fourth-year Nanoengineering student at UC San Diego specializing in Bioengineering and minoring in General Biology. In the fall of 2021, I will be continuing my education at UCSD with their Nanoengineering M.S. program studying biomedical nanotechnology. As a volunteer at the Deheyn lab, I help process, image and analyze seawater samples for microfiber detection and characterization. We hope to better understand microfiber generation and degradation in consideration of human and environmental health. I hope to one day work with bioinspired drug delivery systems for improved cancer therapy. I am also an outdoor enthusiast and a proud bookworm!

Nan Woodman : Volunteer

Nan Woodman


I'm a Biomimicry Professional and Illustrator at the Design Table.

In the Deheyn lab I am researching biomimicry applications for local organisms, currently Mesembryanthemum crystalline, Pinus torreyanna, and pioneer species: Acmispon glaber. I have a special interest in plant communication and "Biomimicry Thinking" education.