Kou Research Group Alumni

Postdoctoral Scholars:



Xuezhen Kou, Ph.D.


  • Email Address: xuezhenk AT ucr.edu
  • Biography: Xuezhen was born and raised in Shandong province, China. After he received his B.S. in chemistry, he joined Zengming Shen's Lab and Xiaofeng Tong's Lab for his Master's degree. Then, he moved to Wanbin Zhang's Group for his doctoral studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. In October 2018, he joined our group for his postdoctoral research. During his free time, he enjoys watching movies, running, and reading.

Maja Chojnacka, Ph.D.


  • Email Address: majac AT ucr.edu
  • Past Experience: Batey Lab, University of Toronto
  • Time in Lab: 2019-2020
  • Current Institution: Gilead Sciences

Graduate Students:



Taylor Alexander, Ph.D.


  • Email Address: talex005 AT ucr.edu
  • Biography: Taylor was born and raised in Los Angeles, California before moving east to attend Indiana University-Bloomington, where he obtained his B.S. in Biotechnology as well as minors in Chemistry and Spanish in 2016. He likes to spend his free time weightlifting, boxing, snowboarding and watching football.
  • Time in Lab: 2019-2020
  • Current Institution: 858 Therapeutics, Medicinal Chemistry



Vivienne Nguyen, Ph.D.


  • Email Address: vnguy264 AT ucr.edu
  • Biography: Born in the Bay Area, Viviene relocated to Southern California where she received her B.S. in Biochemistry in 2018 from University of California, Los Angeles. At UCLA, she developed a keen interest in chemical synthesis and biology. Upon graduation, Viviene joined our group to investigate and construct intricate organic molecules. When not running a column or munching on Clif Bars, she can be found listening to true-crime podcasts, swimming laps in the pool, predicting Oscar contenders, and cultivating her love of pickled foods.
  • Current Institution: OliX Pharmaceuticals

Undergraduate Students:



Nicholas Akkawi


  • Email Address: nakka001 AT ucr.edu
  • Past Experience: Grossman Lab - Carnegie-Stanford; Julian Lab - UCR
  • Biography: Nick is currently a 3rd year Biochemistry major with medical emphasis. Previous to working in the Kou lab, he worked in The Julian Lab at UCR and The Grossman lab at Carnegie-Stanford. Research interests include immunotherapy, analytical application of mass spectrometry in proteomics, Biochemistry pathways of GPCRs in photosynthetic organisms, metal catalysis, and amino acid chemistry. Additional to this he loves sports, learning new mechanisms, hanging with friends and trying new food spots.
  • Current Institution: UNC Chapel Hill, Chemistry



Beter Zaki


  • Email Address: bzaki001 AT ucr.edu
  • Time in Lab: 2019-2021
  • Current Institution: Drexel University College of Medicine



Yaseen Hakim


  • Email Address: yhaki001 AT ucr.edu
  • Time in Lab: 2019-2022
  • Current Institution: UC Davis School of Medicine

Sabrine Hossain


  • Email Address: shoss013 AT ucr.edu
  • Time in Lab: 2019-2021
  • Current Institution: ABC Testing, Chemistry Associate




Emil Dominguez


  • Email Address: dominguezray90 AT gmail DOT com
  • Biography: Born in Whittier, California, Emil attended Rio Hondo Community College, where he developed a passion for chemistry. In the spring of 2021, he joined our group to explore natural product synthesis and become familiar with a research laboratory's inner workings. In fall 2022, Emil will transfer to UCLA as a biochemistry major. Outside of the laboratory, Emil works as a physics tutor and volunteers as a course instructor with the Prison Education Project at the California Institution for Men and Riverside Southwest Juvenile
  • Time in Lab: 04/2021-06/2022
  • Current Institution: UCLA



Charlene Fan


  • Email Address: cfan021 AT ucr DOT edu
  • Biography: Biology major and became interested in research after taking organic chemistry with Dr. Kou. Enjoys hiking, jogging, and cooking/baking in free time.
  • Time in Lab: 10/2021-06/2022

Alex Martinez


  • Email Address: amart307 AT ucr DOT edu



Melody Wu


  • Email Address: mwu128 AT ucr DOT edu
  • Biography: Born in the U.S, Melody spent her elementary years in Hong Kong and Taiwan and moved back to America in the 6th grade. She is currently a fourth-year biology major and chemistry minor. Melody developed an interest in organic chemistry while taking Dr. Kou’s CHEM008B class and joined our group in the summer of 2021. When not setting up reactions in the glovebox or tutoring students, she spends her free time practicing yoga, bullet journaling, reading classics, and catching up on kpop content.



Jose Aleman


  • Email Address: jalem011 AT ucr DOT edu
  • Biography: Originally from Peru, José transferred to UCR from Fullerton College and has been a peer facilitator for sophomore organic chemistry courses. In the summer of 2021, he acquired research experience at NC State University on high-throughput sequencing of tiny maize hoppers. Pfizer's $20,000 fellowship will fund his research in synthesizing medicinally-relevant natural molecules. As part of the fellowship, José will present his research at Pfizer in La Jolla and interact with Pfizer scientists in August 2022!


High School Trainee:



Jeffrey Doeve


  • Time in Lab: 2019-2020
  • Current Institution: UCI

Arpita Kanrar


  • Time in Lab: 2019
  • Current Institution: Columbia College at Columbia University

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