Graduate Students

 Fourth Years

Ryan Kozlowski

We believe Ryan was born on some obscure lengthy island somewhere on the East coast, but we really can’t be entirely sure due to his strange dialect. What we have ascertained, however, is that he single-handedly carved a dugout canoe to escape said island after he depleted their Kool-Aid supplies; in the process, he grew what has to be the most complete beard the Vanderwal lab has ever seen. (Seriously, is that what it takes to grow a beard??) After capsizing sometime in the night while trying to make yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he washed up onto the shore of Delaware and was promptly taken to the lab of Professor Don Watson to work on copper-catalyzed coupling reactions of alkylboronates. Ryan has since found his way to sunny Southern California, where he still professes his love for sports teams that are thousands of miles and several time zones away. He maintains peak physical performance by playing Civilization all day, hoping someday to destroy the empire of the person who wrote this biography. Lastly, he claims to have a medical condition that forces him to eat constantly, but we all know better than that.

 Ryan Kozlowski

Darius Vrubliauskas

[2017-20 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]

Darius was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. Upon hearing wonderful things about America, he packed up and moved to Philadelphia and was immediately disappointed. To deal with having to live in Philly, Darius took to playing chess so he wouldn’t have to look around. While furiously honing his chess skills, Darius developed a taste for foods that could be prepared without looking away from the board—canned lentil soup and prepackaged juice smoothies. Darius breaks his gaze from the chess board for only two reasons—to conduct chemistry, and to do chin-ups. He began his chemistry career in the Sieburth lab at Temple, and joined the Vanderwal group in 2017. His hobbies now include botany and winning chess matches against grown men named Sunshine.

 Darius Vrubliauskas

 Third Years

Natalie Dwulet

[2017-21 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship]

Born in California to a family of roving vagabonds, Natalie was promptly whisked off to France for the early years of her life. It was undoubtedly during this time that she was taught the Communist arts of drinking La Croix (“Lah Kwah”) and eating root vegetables. Such a diet allowed her to grow to epic proportions, which she leveraged to become a volleyball star here in the great state of California. Upon completing her undergraduate degree under the tutelage of Professor Jeff Cannon while working on the synthesis of unnatural amino acids, she had the unique distinction of becoming one of only 5,000 students to come to UCI from Occidental in the year of 2017. After a brief stint working on highly oxygenated natural products, she has now switched her focus towards more carbon-based natural products. Her hobbies include proctoring exams on Sundays, scheduling Riley’s activities, shotgunning La Croix, listening to Africa by Toto on endless repeat, and hiking.


Riley Mills

Riley was born and raised a good Southern California boy in the heart of Orange with a love for touristy fish shirts, karaoke and craft beer. He received his Bachelor’s degree at the University of California, San Diego and during his senior years conducted research at Scripps, La Jolla, developing a methodology utilizing radical decarboxylations to form carbon-carbon bonds, and then took an internship at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Since Riley has never left SoCal, and his electric car cannot take him very far, he joined our group at UC Irvine where he has taken up the synthesis of alkaloid natural products and the role of pyrrole annulator. He has officially given meaning to the term “Wild West Chemistry” as he can be found by following the trails of grease and broken glassware. Other than chemistry, Riley has created a cult where he has titled himself “dungeon master,” and his favorite hobby is spear-fishing even though he’s never done it before. When not singing 90s love ballads, he can be found consulting his secretary, Natalie, about his daily schedule and responsibilities.


 Second Years

Joe Capani Jr.

Scott Niman

“Big Papi” Scott was born in the rain, raised in the rain and will likely die in the rain, which is about what you’d expect from someone from Portland. Scott triple jumped his way out of Oregon and headed south to sunny Los Angeles to study at Occidental College. He occidentally (get it?) got a degree in chemistry while working on the total synthesis of amino sugar natural products. During his time in the Cannon lab he spent most of his days grinding almonds instead of doing real chemistry research. Since joining the Vanderwal lab, Scott spends 50% of his time working on the total synthesis of immunosuppressive diterpenoids and the other 50% cleaning his apartment, going to Costco, and following Ryan into grocery stores. Scott’s hobbies include listening to the song “Scotty Doesn’t Know”, skiing, throwing javelins, and eating a lifetime supply of pretzels out of a novelty sized barrel.  If you come to the lab late at night, you just might catch Scott grinding up almonds in his fume hood old habits die hard.


Bonnie Pak

Over two decades ago a hiker lifted a rock in the desert and out scurried Bonnie Pak.  A desert rat through and through, there was concern that any attempt to remove Bonnie from her natural environment, Palm Springs, California would kill her as she cannot survive in other biomes.  Fortunately, she was accepted to UC San Diego where she was able to get enough sun to keep her blood warm while following Riley from class to class. Between her research in the Burkart lab synthesizing protein linkers and her time as a medicinal chemist at Takeda Pharmaceuticals Bonnie spent most of her college career being as srat as possible.  Bonnie continued appeasing her cold-blooded nature by moving up to sunny Irvine for graduate school, joining the Vanderwal lab in hopes of making as many analogues of the lissoclimides as physically possible. Since joining the lab, Bonnie has started day drinking on Sundays and is taking on as many nicknames as there are words that start with B; to name a few: The Bean, B-Money, Bon-Bon, Brawnie, Lebronnie James, and Bonasaurus Rex.


 First Years

Griffin Barnes


Lucas Johnson


Bonnie Park


Jane Supantanapong