The Team

The McDonald lab aims to create an interdisciplinary team of aspiring and junior scientists from all backgrounds and disciplines.


Benjamin R. McDonald

Principal Investigator, He/Him/His

Ben was born in Bangor, Maine, but grew up in central Ohio. Eager to study chemistry at a small liberal arts college, he received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from University of North Carolina Asheville in 2012, conducting research with Prof. Herman Holt. He then pursued his PhD at Northwestern University under the guidance of Prof. Karl Scheidt. As a NIH NRSA predoctoral fellow, he developed new catalytic methods for the construction of small molecules. Subsequently, he was a Martin Luther King postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Prof. Tim Swager at MIT. Here he developed a passion for organic macromolecules and their use as dynamic and reactive materials. Ben began his appointment in the Department of Chemistry at Brown as an assistant professor in 2021.

Ben enjoys climbing plastic simulations of rocks and lavishing love upon his cats.

Email me: mcdonabe@brown.edu


Tharindu Ranathunge

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Tharindu was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and went to college at the University of Peradeniya. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry in 2016. After that, he continued his studies for a master’s in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology from the post graduate institute of science(PGIS) at the University of Peradeniya in 2018. While completing his degree, he worked as an instructor at the Department of Engineering at the University of Peradeniya. After completion, he joined the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 2018 to pursue his Ph.D. under Dr. Davita Watkins. His thesis was on developing semiconducting materials for optoelectronic devices with expertise in electropolymerization. Afterward, he joined the Department of Chemistry at Brown University in the fall of 2022 as a Postdoctoral Research Associate.                     
Tharindu likes Badminton, Tennis, Soccer, Cricket, Football, and Rugby. Also, he likes painting, music, and traveling.  


Timea Kolozsvary

Second Year Graduate Student

Timea grew up in southern Florida until she moved to New Jersey during high school. She received her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Northeastern University in 2017.
Afterwards, she joined Wave Life Sciences, a biotech company in Lexington, MA. There, she worked on developing the synthesis and downstream processing of oligonucleotides as genetic medicines, until she became a part of the Department of Chemistry at Brown in the fall of 2021 as a graduate student. Timea hopes to shift her experience with natural polymers towards the fascinating world of synthetic, responsive and programmable polymeric materials for biomedical and environmental applications in the McDonald Lab.

Timea is also passionate about climbing and yoga, crafting and baking, and her family- which includes her bird Polly.


Matthew Chan

Undergraduate Student, ‘24

Hi! I’m Matthew, a sophomore concentrating in neuroscience with a certificate in entrepreneurship. In my spare time I like swimming and biking. I will be investigating replicating collagen qualities through polymerization. 

Helene Koumans

Undergraduate Student, ’22

Helene is a third-year undergraduate student studying Chemistry & Hispanic Literatures and Culture from Arlington, Virginia. She works with the Childhood Asthma Research Program at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and has managed the Active Monitoring team in her county’s COVID response. She is eager to gain experience in the lab and investigate chemical recycling of polymers. On campus, Helene is an advocate with Connect for Health and a medical interpreter at Clínica Esperanza and Rhode Island Free Clinic.


Dennis Kinyua

Undergraduate Student, ‘23

My name is Dennis Kinyua and I am a third year undergraduate studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I was born and raised in Kiambu, Kenya and I am super passionate about the intersection of biological structures with synthetic organic chemistry. I am really excited to learn so much from the lab and to explore polymers with self programmable abilities for hierarchical soft materials. At Brown, I work with the Valdez Research group that makes a huge difference in ALS and Alzheimer’s diseases by modelling and researching novel molecules that function to protect and to preserve the Neuro-Muscular Junction (NMJ). 
Outside of the lab, I am a passionate long distance runner and a former Brown Men’s Rugby player. I also love cycling and hiking outdoors. 


Angelo Giannopoulos

Undergraduate Student, ‘23

My name is Angelo Giannopoulos, and I am a senior concentrating in Neurobiology. I am proudly from Worcester, Massachusetts. I became interested in the work at the McDonald Lab through the insights being made in programmable biomaterials and their potential use in patient populations. Outside of the lab, I am a facilitator for the Brown Meditation Community and conduct research on the effects of a mindfulness regiment on anxiety symptoms. I enjoy going for bike rides, weight lifting, and cooking.


Filip Aubrecht

Undergraduate Student, ‘24

Filip was born and raised in Mystic, Connecticut and is currently studying biochemistry and material engineering at Brown University. In the McDonald lab, he works on the synthesis of polyionic hydrogels and researches cation-pi interactions. His academic interests lay in the synthesis of novel materials and the study of their properties and applications.

Filip also enjoys woodworking, machining, welding, long distance backpacking, cycling, and playing trumpet.


Malcom & Jayne

Therapy Cat & Lab Demouser (respectively)

These are my cats! They can be wonderfully annoying alarm clocks when they want their 6am tuna!

Hierarchical assembly of meow.