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


Timea Kolozsvary

First Year Graduate Student

Timea was raised by Hungarian immigrants and grew up in southern Florida until she moved to New Jersey during high school. She went on to complete her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Northeastern University in 2017. Immediately afterwards, she began working at the genetic medicines company Wave Life Sciences in the synthesis and process development of oligonucleotides, up until she joined 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 an avid climber! Additionally, she loves learning & teaching, drawing, her family, and most of all her parrot Polly.


Catherine Yang

Undergraduate Student, ‘23

Howdy! My name is Catherine Yang and I am a second-year undergraduate studying Economics and Visual Arts from Farmington, Connecticut. I am interested in the study of biochemistry and will be working to synthesize collagen-like polymers. Outside of the lab, I enjoy making ceramics, baking, and listening to music. 


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. 


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. 


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.