The people working hard to improve the quality
and happiness of your lab.


Tom Ruginis
Founder, CEO

Tom is a former molecular biologist, PhD dropout, and a lifelong student of psychology and neuroscience. His experience and passion for solving problems helped launch HappiLabs in 2012.

If he’s not analyzing data or shopping for lab supplies you can find him networking and socializing in the Chicago and San Francisco entrepreneur and science communities.

Observations about Tom

  • A favorite book: Guns, Germs, Steel by Jared Diamond
  • If you come to Chicago, Tom will tell you to eat at: Piece Pizza Chicago
  • He appreciates: Nikola Tesla, the greatest scientist and inventor ever


Raudel Sandoval, PhD
Virtual Lab Manager

Raudel has a PhD in Pharmacology from UIC with 12+ years experience in PCR and cell culture–related experiments.

Raudel specializes in data about quality. When you have a question about the quality of supplies or reagents, he’s doing the research for you.

Fun facts:

  • Favorite food: Thai
  • Loves soccer
  • Fave TV show: Ozark


Liz Sacho, PhD
Virtual Lab Manager

Liz has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and many years experience in biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology. Her research career focused on DNA repair and utilized a variety of bulk and single molecule assays.

She is a strong advocate for science outreach and education, and enjoys serving as a local science fair judge.

Fun Facts:

  • Lover of carbonated water
  • Avid knitter


Justin Beach, PhD
Virtual Lab Manager

Justin has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from East Tennessee State University. His research focused on examining the inhibitory effects of antibiotics on bacterial ribosome biosynthesis.

Justin recently moved to Chicago and started as a Virtual Lab Manager in October 2016.

Fun facts:

  • Is a lifelong fan of professional cycling
  • Loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen with food and drink
  • Enjoys urban gardening and studying botany in his spare time


Ian Street, PhD
Virtual Lab Manager

Ian has a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis. His research focused on plant developmental biology and how light and hormones shape plant cells.

He is also an advocate for communicating science, improving early career researcher’s experiences in STEM, and a science writer/editor.

Fun facts:

  • Addicted to podcasts
  • Is a runner competing in 5 and 10k distance races mostly for fun
  • Wants to form a trophy winning pub trivia team

Mauricio De La Parra
Virtual Lab Manager

Mauricio has extensive experience in biological research, including over ten years in academia. He has co-written articles that have been published in peer reviewed journals. He specializes in neuroscience, surgery and animal models.

Fun Facts:

  • Loves to cook
  • Currently really into F1 racing
  • Avid theater and live music patron

    Haley Grimm, PhD
    Virtual Lab Manager

    Haley has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research career focused on the synthesis of peptides with modified backbones (aka “peptidomimetics”) and their potential as soft piezoelectric materials.

    Haley is also interested in science policy and science outreach. Haley defended her thesis in 2019 and moved to Chicago to join the Happilabs’ team.

    Fun Facts:

    • Studied dance for 18+ years and now takes classes for fun (when she can find the time!)
    • Favorite podcasts are “The Daily” and “Stuff You Should Know”
    • Big fan of Steelers’ football

      Aki Ueda, PhD
      Virtual Lab Manager

      Aki has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences, with a concentration in Immunology, from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. Her graduate research focused on: CD4+ T-cell differentiation and activity in inflammation and autoimmune diseases, as well as the role of microflora in diseases such as colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. She has expertise in mouse handling/husbandry, primary cell isolation/extraction/culture, and microbial/molecular biology procedures. 

      Fun Facts:

      • Prefers Star Trek over Star Wars
      • Favorite Author: Neil Gaiman
      • Once won a pie-eating contest

        Shoham Band
        Support Virtual Lab Manager

        Shoham has a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Biology from the UIUC. She has worked in both plant biology and breast cancer research labs. 

        Joined Happilabs in August 2019 as a support VLM.  

        Fun facts:

        • Loves rock climbing and yoga
        • Travels the country to eat burritos
        • Obsessed with insects, plants, and fungi

          Padma Kandukuru
          Support Virtual Lab Manager

          Padma is currently working with HappiLabs as a Product Research/Purchasing Specialist. She helps scientists to find their research products by doing comparative evaluation of different brands to find their equivalent or superior alternatives.

          In addition to product research, she works with the Virtual Lab Managers to purchase lab consumables, equipment and reagents within a set budget, negotiate with suppliers/sales reps, and communicate with scientists to ensure day-to-day operations of laboratory are efficient.

          Fun facts: 

          • When not research, you will find her in the kitchen experimenting with food
          • Loves mixing art with science to create healthy & tasty recipes
          • Has over 12 years of Indian dance training

          Elizabeth Varhegyi, PhD
          Virtual Lab Manager

          Elizabeth has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology from University of Illinois–Chicago. Her research focused on Ebola and influenza viral entry and involved several high through-put screens using a robotic liquid handling system as well as cell culture, viral pseudotyping, and western blotting.

          She defended her thesis in December 2015 and started as a Virtual Lab Manager in January 2016.

          Fun facts:

          • Competes in races – 5ks, a 10k, a half marathon, triathlons, and duathlon
          • Loves to cook and bake – especially gluten free food
          • Enjoys doing cross-stitch



          Rachel Ruginis
          Vice President of Operations

          Rachel is in charge of our operations — from legal and finances to creative and data analytics, she takes care of it.

          Tom will call her a co-founder, but she doesn’t like that title.

          Fun facts:

          • Lover of pizza, music and style
          • Mother to @CharlieAtom and twitter-less #OliverGyven

          Natalie Strasser
          Office Manager

          Natalie has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Roosevelt University, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Delta Honors Society. She’s interested in cultures around the world and how humans interact.

          The Office is one of her favorite shows, but she never wants to be Toby.

          Fun facts:

          • Lover of tacos and spicy foods
          • Avid reader (anything by Coates, Kerouac, or Kozol)
          • Frequent Trivia Night go-er