Lab Members


Dimitri Deheyn : Associate Research Scientist and Lecturer

Dimitri Deheyn

Associate Research Scientist and Lecturer

My research expertise deals with light production and manipulation in organisms, embracing the full range of scientific opportunities, from fundamental exploration and mechanistic description to potential application for biomedical, bioengineering and/or biotechnological applications.

I have received my Ph.D. from the Free University of Brussels (Belgium) in Marine Sciences, with emphasis on Marine Biology; therefore my model organisms are mainly marine (brittlestars, worms, snails, fish), yet I also conduct research with freshwater (fish) and terrestrial species (butterfly, birds).

I have been conducting my research at SIO since 2004.


Evelien De Meulenaere : Postdoctoral Researcher

Evelien De Meulenaere

Postdoctoral Researcher

“Where does the light in the ocean come from?”

A surprisingly large amount of marine animals produce light for various reasons, including camouflage as well as revealing themselves or others. My research focuses on the biochemistry of light production of the tube worm Chaetopterus variopedatus and on optical properties of the nudibranch Flabellina (Spanish Shawl) and the sea slug Navanax.

I obtained my Master in Biochemistry and my PhD in Bioengineering at the University of Leuven (Belgium), where I studied the nonlinear optical properties of fluorescent proteins, and the (nonlinear) optical properties and the behavior of small molecular dyes inside living cells.


Sarah-Jeanne Royer : Postdoctoral Researcher

Sarah-Jeanne Royer

Postdoctoral Researcher

My research interest focuses on processes related to plastic degradation and fragmentation in the environment. Prior to this post-doctorate, I investigated on the emissions of greenhouse gases from plastics in the environment at the Center for Microbial Oceanography, Research and Education at the University of Hawaii. I also conducted research on pathways and the fate of marine debris in the ocean at the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii.

My goal is to pursue plastic research to understand better the degradation and fragmentation processes of plastic and its fate in the ocean with a special emphasis on microfibers and its biodegradability and geographical distribution in the ocean and in the atmosphere. My long-last objective is for policymakers to use data from scientists and volunteers to design better laws and policies to reduce plastic production & consumption from the source.

I obtained my PhD at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Barcelona in biological oceanography and biogeochemistry where I started a running group in 2009 to clean our shorelines to prevent plastic items from getting into the ocean. Since then I have been involved with different organizations to protect the ocean. In 2015, I joined Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, which is the biggest organization of beach cleanups in Hawaii. For four years I served as their science advisor and started using data collection from volunteers for citizen science projects.


Daniel Wangpraseurt : Marie Curie Fellow

Daniel Wangpraseurt

Marie Curie Fellow

I am interested in understanding the various light harvesting strategies and design solutions of photosynthesizing underwater organisms with an emphasis on coral reef organisms. My current research focuses on the development of bioinspired approaches for improving photosynthetic efficiency in biofuel production. I enjoy working at the interface between biology and optics and incorporate aspects of microalgal photobiology and ecophysiology, optical modelling and imaging as well as 3D printing in my research.  If you want to learn more about my work, visit


Jessica Sandoval : PhD Student

Jessica Sandoval

PhD Student

I am an avid explorer, biology-enthusiast, and engineer who is passionate about exploring the oceans. I am working towards completing my doctorate degree in the field of biomimetics and biomechanics at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), working with Dr. Dimitri Deheyn and Dr. Michael Tolley (Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab). My research encompasses biomimetics and recently includes understanding spatial distributions of microplastics/microfibers.  My research allows me to study biology (ie suction discs of fishes) to inform and better engineer material systems. For part of the year, I also work as a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) pilot on adventures to the deep sea where we sample and learn from the incredible biology and geology of the sea floor.

I received my B.S. from MIT in Biological Engineering, and my M.S. from UCSD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

**Photo by Ed McNichol


Kira LaFace : MS Student

Kira LaFace

MS Student

I am currently a student at the University of California, San Diego studying for a BS in Marine Biology with a minor in Environmental Systems, and volunteering as a research assistant in the Deheyn Lab. I have helped with chromatography experiments on brittle stars, taken many photographs of both marine and terrestrial species with the stereoscope (focusing on color, iridescence and light producing organs) and analyzed samples for fluorescence levels using a spectrophotometer. I am currently working on a project to determine if reflectin is the protein responsible in the color formation of the nudibranch species, Navanax. I look forward to more exciting projects with the Deheyn lab in the future!

Debra Quick-Jones : Volunteer

Debra Quick-Jones


I am by training a Doctor of Optometry, working at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, but my passion is for the ocean.  I am fortunate to be volunteering in the Dehehn lab doing background research on the visual ecology of fishes. Future projects may concentrate on the vision of species that transition from aquatic to aerial life in the course of their development, such as the dragonfly. I am also interested in certain predator fish how their vision works with in response to their environment. Hyperspectral spectrometry is one technique used to measure retinal sensitivity.