Dr. Kevin De France 

Assistant Professor, Queen’s University                                       

Dr. Kevin De France joined Queen’s University as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering in May 2022. He is the recipient of the 2024 Queen’s University Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award for his efforts in encouraging and mentoring undergraduate scholars. His research focuses on the design of sustainable materials using building blocks from cellulose and proteins. 

Prior to his appointment at Queen’s, Kevin was an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow in The Cellulose & Wood Materials Lab at Empa – Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science & Technology. His research at Empa focused on understanding structure-function relationships in bio-based nanomaterials, and translation toward commercialization. This included the design of sprayable food-packaging from cellulose nanofibers, emulsion stabilized fungal propagules for biological control, and composite films from cellulose nanocrystals and protein fibers. Kevin earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from McMaster University (2019), under the supervision of Dr. Todd Hoare and Dr. Emily Cranston, where his research focused on the design of cellulose nanocrystal hydrogels for tissue engineering applications. He was awarded the TAPPI Nano Division Student Award in 2019 to recognize his research contributions and service to the TAPPI Nano Division as a PhD student. 

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Lenka Vitkova

Postdoctoral Fellow (co-supervised with Dr. Amsden)
Project: Reactive electrospinning of crosslinkable protein nanofibers for muscle tissue engineering

Lenka is a postdoctoral fellow in the De France Lab at Queen’s University. A proud alumna of Tomas Bata University in Zlín, Czech Republic, she got her Ph.D. at the Department of Physics and Materials Engineering. Her research dives into the world of biopolymers, focusing on advanced scaffold processing for cell cultivation. Her work on the electrospinning of hyaluronan has been recognized with the Head of the Department of Physics and Materials Engineering Award. She gained international experience at the University of Luxembourg and the Bayreuth University. At Queen’s, Lenka will explore self-assembled protein amyloids as materials for electrospinning of aligned fibrous scaffolds, aiming to guide muscle cell growth and differentiation. When she’s not immersed in research, Lenka enjoys climbing, reading and absurd hypothetical questions.

Graduate Students


Nasim Fadaie

PhD student (co-supervised with Dr. Xin, Civil Engineering)
Project: Sustainable materials for the treatment of pharmaceutical contaminants

Nasim is a first-year doctoral student who holds a Master of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST). Her academic expertise centers on Membrane Technology for water/wastewater treatment applications. She has previously worked on innovative thin-film composite membranes for forward osmosis processes. At Queen’s University, her research will be focused on developing bio-based nanofibril materials for both water treatment and biomedical applications. Outside of the lab, she is a fitness trainer and enjoys spending her free time in the gym.

Carolina Ordonez

Carolina Ordonez

PhD student (co-supervised with Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Champagne, NRC)
Project: Stimuli-responsive protein nanofiber emulsions for controlled delivery

Carolina is a second year doctoral student from Colombia. Her academic background includes bioprocess, corrosion and polymers. She has six years of prior work experience in Corrosion for the Oil and Gas industry. Carolina’s current project pursues enhancing latex-based coatings with carboxylated cellulose nanocrystals. Her future work will focused on developing emulsions with protein fibers that can be stimuli-responsive for biomedical applications. Aside from research, Carolina is passionate about dancing and making crafts. She likes to do exercise and is an active member of CEGSA.


Romina Shirazi

PhD student (co-supervised with Dr. Koupaie)
Project: Sustainable materials in water treatment and anaerobic digestion

Romina is a first-year doctoral student, and completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST). Her research interests lie in the area of nanofibrous membrane design for water purification and other biotechnological applications. She is enthusiastic about implementing her knowledge in designing high-performance bio-based materials for wastewater treatment and medical applications. Aside from her academic activities, she is a fitness enthusiast, an amateur photographer and painter.

Mohamed Wahbi

Mohamed Wahbi

PhD student (co-supervised with Dr. Kontopoulou)
Project: Sustainable routes to modify PLA for additive manufacturing

Mohamed is a third-year doctoral student who is interested in advancing sustainable materials for 3D printing. His academic journey began with a B.Sc. from Ibn Zohr University, followed by an M.Sc. from Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco. During his master’s studies, Mohamed participated in an Erasmus exchange program in Greece, where he spent a year dedicated to developing biobased polyesters for eco-friendly packaging. Currently, his research focuses on addressing the limitations of PLA in 3D printing applications.

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Marwa Naime

MASc student (co-supervised with Dr. Kontopoulou and Dr. Gilbert)
Project: Protein nanofiber alignment and rheological behavior

Marwa is a second year Chemical Engineering Master’s student from Lebanon who is passionate about sustainability. she is interested in integrating it into unconventional scientific research fields and exploring niche techniques to studying sustainable materials. Her project will focus on studying protein nanofiber alignment, orientation, and rheological behavior to better understand their effects on material properties. Outside academics, she is an avid enthusiast of archeology, morning runs, and escape rooms!


Wen-Qiang Wang

MASc student (co-supervised with Dr. Xin, Civil Engineering)
Project: Designing sustainable adsorbents for PFAS removal

Wen-Qiang is a first-year Civil Engineering Master’s Student from China, and brings four years of prior work experience in the chemical industry. He is interested in PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) removal from wastewater and is committed to advancing the field. His research project will be dedicated to leveraging cutting-edge technology to enhance the adsorbents’ capacity for PFAS removal in landfills. Beyond his academic pursuits, Wen-Qiang is an enthusiastic landscape photographer and enjoys playing badminton in his free time.


Yidan (Daniella) Wen

MASc student
Project: Protein nanofibers from algal proteins

Yidan (Daniella) started her academic journey as a nanotechnology engineering undergraduate at the University of Waterloo. Her capstone project focused on developing a glucose sensor for diabetes, based on gold nanoparticles. During her co-op she conducted research on microfluidic devices for point of care applications. She is now pursuing a Master’s degree at Queen’s University in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and is excited to explore the potential of protein nanofibers in biomedical devices and sustainable biomaterials


Andre Guerra

Visiting PhD Student
Project: Designing structured films from cellulose nanocrystals and protein nanofibers

Andre is a PhD candidate from McGill University conducting research focused on the rheology of gas hydrate systems. He joined the De France Lab as a visiting researcher to study nanocellulose- and protein nanofiber-based functional biomaterials. Specifically, he is interested in thermally-induced wrinkling, a process whereby biopolymer solutions are coated onto pre-stressed polystyrene substrates. The coated substrates are then heated, which induces buckling of the coated biopolymer layer and creates high surface area nanostructured morphologies with potential applications in fields, such as electrochemistry, cell culture, or catalysis. 

Undergraduate Students


Brigitte Gaudert

USSRF researcher & BIOL 537 Thesis student (co-supervised with Dr. diCenzo, Biology)
Project: Antimicrobial hybrid materials with protein nanofibers

Brigitte is a Biotechnology undergraduate student who is passionate about finding sustainable solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change. As part of her thesis, Brigitte will be working in the Natural Nanocomposites lab where she will focus on the self-assembly of antimicrobial protein nanofibers. This exciting opportunity will allow her to combine her expertise in Biology with her interest in interdisciplinary studies in Chemical Engineering. Aside from working in the lab, Brigitte is passionate about film photography and is a member of the Queen’s rowing team.

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Gillian Szandtner

NSERC USRA researcher
Project: Electrospinning of all-algal composites

Gillian is a second-year undergraduate BioChemical Engineering student who is interested in exploring research projects focused on sustainable solutions. For her NSERC USRA, Gillian will be working to extract and purify microalgal proteins, and through electrospinning, prepare porous nanofiber membranes for water treatment applications. In Gillian’s spare time, she loves to cook, do crafts, and spend time outdoors.


Spencer McCluskey

NSERC USRA researcher & ENCH 417 Thesis Student (co-supervised with Dr. Baker)
Project: Protein nanofiber electrodes for electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion

Spencer is an undergraduate Engineering Chemistry student with an interest in applying sustainable materials to electrochemical processes. Spencer will be joining the lab as a NSERC USRA researcher co-supervised by Dr. Rachel Baker. His project will focus on the development of protein-based materials as a replacement for metal electrodes in electrochemical CO2 conversion systems. In his free time, Spencer enjoys running, hiking, and cooking.


Cassandra Koitsopoulos

Undergraduate Volunteer Summer Researcher & ENCH 417 Thesis Student
Project: Designing emulsions from protein nanofibers

Cassandra is an Engineering Chemistry undergraduate student with an interest in nanobiotechnology and sustainable material design. For her thesis, Cassandra will be working on designing and characterizing stable emulsions using bio-based protein nanofibers (PNFs), which are eco-friendly alternatives to traditional surfactants and can help promote a shift towards greener manufacturing practices in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. Outside of the lab, Cassandra enjoys going to the gym, swimming, and photography.


Ina Tachom

Undergraduate Volunteer Summer Researcher
Project: Producing protein nanofibers from biomass

Ina is a second-year undergraduate Biotechnology student at St. Lawrence College. She is passionate and interested in research projects that focus on understanding biomolecules and their chemical modifications. She will be working with graduate students in the De France Lab to make and characterize protein aggregates from biomass.


Nathalia Rosalle       Undergraduate Researcher 2024
Michaela Hammond      Undergraduate Researcher 2024
Sam Fahrngruber      Undergraduate Researcher 2024
Caroline Kupczyk      Undergraduate Researcher 2024
Victor Di Donato       Undergraduate Researcher 2024
Geneviève Norris-Roozmon Undergraduate Researcher 2023