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Hegg Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Eric Hegg

Eric Hegg obtained his B.A. from Kalamazoo College and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin under the direction of Professor Judith Burstyn. It was during his time at Wisconsin that he became interested in metalloenzymology, studying the role of metal ions in enzymes that hydrolyze DNA, RNA, and proteins. After receiving his Ph.D., Eric joined Larry Que's group at the University of Minnesota as an NIH postdoctoral fellow where he studied non-heme iron dioxygenases and established his long-standing interest in understanding how nature synthesizes and activates small molecules such as H2 and O2. Following his postdoctoral work, Eric and his family moved to Salt Lake City where he joined the faculty of the University of Utah and began his independent research career. When the opportunity arose, Eric and his wife eagerly returned to the northern Midwest to join the faculty at MSU. In addition to studying heme biosynthesis and O2 utilization, he is involved in developing renewable bioenergy, converting biomass into ethanol and other transportation fuels as wells as using microbes to generate H2. When Eric am not busy in the lab, he enjoys running, hiking, and most outdoor activities.

Research Associates

Julius CampeciƱo

Julius Campeciño joined the lab as a research associate in October 2017. He earned his PhD in Chemistry in 2015 at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst under the guidance of Prof. Michael J. Maroney. Prior to joining the group, he taught undergraduate chemistry in the Philippines. His interest revolves around understanding how enzymes modulate the properties of metal ions to perform specific catalysis. He is currently involved in unraveling the mechanism of cytochrome c nitrite reductase. Outside of the lab, he enjoys working out specially that he is now a Spartan, but he laments at how he can't get to the build like his Spartan predecessors.

Ruchi Gaur

Ruchi Gaur joined the Hegg Lab in August 2018 as a senior research associate. After completing her PhD from IIT Delhi (India) on enzyme production and characterization from extremophilic bacteria, she joined SUNY at Buffalo as a postdoc researcher to decipher iron uptake and channeling mechanisms in microbes. Her research encompassed multicopperoxidase purification and characterization from bacteria and yeast. With a short stint at the University of Konstanz, Germany, Ruchi was exposed to proteomics and mass spectrometry before joining the National Brain Research Centre in India to work on Angelman Syndrome mouse model for identification and functional characterization of marker proteins in neurodevelopmental disorder. Later, her interest on addressing environmental concerns and biofuel production drove her to the Bioenergy Research Centre at IOCL (India). There she focused on developing efficient pretreatment strategies for harness fermentable sugars from lignocellulosic biomass and mass-spectrometry based screening of fungal cellulases endowed with LMPO activity. In the Hegg Lab, Ruchi will continue to focus on her interest on environmental issues with a focus on microbial nitrous oxide production and mitigation strategies.

Jenie Gil

Jenie Gil is a research associate in the Department of Integrative Biology and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. Before coming to Michigan State in June 2018, she received her PhD (Biogeochemistry) from the University of Easter Finland, Kuopio, Finland. Her main research interest lies on the study of stable isotopes and isotopomers as a tool to characterize sources of greenhouse gases from soil and microbial pathways. She is collaborating with Hegg Lab on the evaluation of the isotopic composition of N2O generated from specific nitrogen cycling enzymes commonly used by soil microorganisms. She loves nature, photography and hot chocolate!

Saravanakumar Thiyagarajan

Saravanakumar Thiyagarajan joined the Hegg Lab in May 2018 as a research associate. He received his PhD in Biotechnology from Chonbuk National University, South Korea. After receiving his PhD, Saravana completed a postdoctoral fellowship working on a university-industry project. His current research theme is about the efficient depolymerization of cellulose using metallozymes and to find its synergistic effect with other cellulases. In his free time, Saravana enjoys going on long bike rides.

Zhaoyang Yuan

Zhaoyang Yuan is a research associate in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. Zhaoyang received his B.Eng and MASc in Pulp and Paper Engineering at Tianjin University of Science Technology. He completed his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of British Columbia in 2017. Then, Zhaoyang worked as a postdoctoral fellow at UBC for one year. In January 2018, he joined Hegg Lab and will specially focus on improving catalyst aided alkaline hydrogen peroxide treatment of woody biomass to improve monomeric sugars recovery as well as developing a cost-effective biomass-to-bioethanol bioconversion process. Other interests include history, swimming, and soccer.

Zhen Fang photo

Zhen Fang is a research associate of Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. After obtained his master’s degree in June 2013 at Element Organic Chemistry Institute, Nankai University, Zhen completed his PhD program in Chemistry department, University of Kentucky, in February 2019, wherein his study focused on degradation of lignin and utilization of lignin as building blocks for epoxy resins. He is currently working on degradation of lignin via electrochemistry. Zhen is a super fan of badminton and basketball.

Graduate Assistants

Gracielou Klinger

Gracielou Klinger is a graduate student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Chemistry department. She joined the Hegg lab in November 2014. Before coming to Michigan State she obtained her undergraduate degrees from Wright State University in Dayton, OH. Her interests lie in the chemical breakdown of plant biomass and its conversion to value added products. She loves nature and her black thumb does not stop her from trying to grow lots of plants.

Elise Rivett Elise Rivett is a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate student; she joined the Hegg lab in April 2014. Before coming to MSU, she earned a B.S. in chemistry from Olivet Nazarene University. Her current research goals focus on characterizing the mechanism and structure of heme a synthase, an enzyme that produces an essential cofactor for cytochrome c oxidase. Elise also enjoys long rambling walks, Costa Rican coffee, and funky socks.

Grad Student Krystina Hird

Krystina Hird is a graduate student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) program at MSU and joined the Hegg lab in March of 2020. She received her BS in Biochemistry from Miami of Ohio in 2019. Her research project focuses on understanding the mechanism of converting nitrite to ammonium via bacterial cytochrome c nitrite reductase. She enjoys camping, watching movies, and eating good food.



Undergraduate Students



Celeste Dufour

Celeste Dufour is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Biochemistry/Biotechnology through Lyman Briggs. She started working in the Hegg lab in spring of 2020 and will be assisting Julius Campeciño and Krystina Hird with their projects studying the metalloenzymes, NrfA and NrfH, to elucidate the mechanism of cytochrome c nitrite reductase. In the little free time that Celeste has outside of the Hegg lab and her job at the MSU Herbarium, she enjoys doing crafts and DIYs, drinking good coffee, and running around in nature (weather permitting). 




Celeste Czarnecki is an undergraduate student entering their senior year as a Chemistry major and STEPPs minor. They started working in the Hegg Lab in June 2019 and will be assisting with projects focusing on improving catalyst aided alkaline hydrogen peroxide treatment of woody biomass with Zhaoyang Yuan and the chemical breakdown of plant biomass with Gracielou Klinger. When they're not in the lab, Celeste is a member of the Glee Club and an amateur animator.