Meet the Team

Lab Director

Joshua Birkebak, PhD

Joshua Birkebak, Ph.D., is the Technical Director at Assured Bio Labs and has previously held the roles of Laboratory Manager and Quality Assurance Officer. He has over ten years of laboratory experience in microbiology especially in the fields of fungal, bacterial, and viral molecular detection and diagnostics using PCR and qPCR. Dr. Birkebak has developed a wealth of experience and knowledge in environmental microbiological investigations and experiments from sampling and experimental design, sample processing, and analysis, all the way through interpretation and application of findings. Other fields of expertise include product testing experimental design and analysis, taxonomic and systematic mycology, quality assurance system implementation and laboratory accreditation, development and implementation of laboratory information management systems, among others. He earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of Washington in 2009 and his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee in 2015.

Management

Dylan Graves, CMC

Dylan Graves is the Operations Manager and Lead Investigator at Assured Bio. In August 2022, he completed the Certified Microbial Consultant course. He also successfully completed the Certified Mold Inspector program through American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC) in May, 2016 and from a University of Tennessee program in 2012. His education coupled with over 8 years of experience as a microscopist are utilized in his experience with commercial, industrial, and residential property inspections. Dylan is currently pursuing an Associate Degree and plans to complete a B.S. in microbiology. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys backpacking, hunting, fishing, and disc golfing.

Deni Sobek

Deni Scar Sobek earned a B.S. in Botany from Iowa State University and teaching certification from Texas Tech University.  She spent 22 years as a science educator in High Schools in Tennessee and Texas, teaching AP Environmental Science, Honors Human Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology and Biology.  She recently transitioned out of education and is overseeing the microbiology lab renovation, Chemistry lab build, and employee spaces at Assured Bio Labs.  In her free time, she enjoys riding her motorcycle, gardening, DIYing, knitting and playing with her pups.

Laboratory Staff

Anna Tolli

Anna Tolli is the Quality Assurance Officer at Assured Bio Labs. She earned her B.S. in Biology from Brigham Young University in 2015 and her M.S. in Biology from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2018, focusing in fish phylogenetics and evolutionary biology. Anna has worked at Assured Bio as a Laboratory Analyst since 2018, primarily working on special projects. In her spare time, Anna enjoys traveling, hiking, and cooking.

Marcus Reed

Marcus Reed is a Laboratory Analyst at Assured Bio. He earned, in 2013, a BS in Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology (BCMB) from the University of Tennessee and began working at Assured Bio Labs that same year. His primary job duties include processing DNA samples and research and development of new DNA analysis for the lab. He also helps in most other scientific areas of the lab. Outside work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and dog, playing music, watching movies, traveling, and learning new things.

Shawn McClurg

Shawn McClurg is a Laboratory Analyst here at Assured Bio Labs. He earned a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee in 2015. He worked for two years at a medical laboratory ensuring safety of plasma used for pharmaceuticals before joining the Assured Bio team in 2018. His job duties here include molecular biological and microbiological tasks. Shawn’s hobbies include fish keeping, reading, and film.

Dustin Welch

Dustin Welch is the Senior Chemist at Assured Bio Labs. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry from Francis Marion University in 2006. He has over 12 years of experience in Chemical Manufacturing Quality Control and State Regulated Cannabis Industries. At Assured Bio he is responsible for Product Manufacturing and Research & Development, and serves as the EPA Regulatory Officer. In his free time, Dustin enjoys traveling, seeing live music, playing music, technology, outdoor activities and micro-farming.

Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown is the Operations Assistant at Assured Bio Lab. Some of his Job duties include, General Maintenance, custodial tasks, Laboratory Consumables Preparation and equipment assembly / maintenance. Andrew is currently working towards a B.S. in secondary education and plans to become a history teacher. Andrew formerly served in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne Division and his favorite things to do are hunting, fishing, watching UT Football and studying history.

Cole Ayres

Cole Ayres is a Product Testing Analyst and Research and Development Scientist. He earned his associates degree from Roane State when he was 17. He then continued his education, receiving his B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Tennessee Technological University, where he worked in a Bacterial Pathology lab helping students perform bacterial research. Cole has a background in aerosol sciences, viral studies, and bacterial testing. His primary duties at Assured Bio Labs include product testing for clients, research and development of methods, and designing and performing experiments. In his spare time, Cole is an avid sportsmen, enjoys college football, kayaking, and scuba diving.

Gregory McPeak

Greg McPeak is a Laboratory Technician at Assured Bio Labs. He originally trained to become a theatrical actor/director with a BA in Theatre and Psychology from East Tennessee State University. However, when children came he turned to the technical side of the stage and began working as a lighting director for the cable networks TNN and CMT. There Greg worked on such shows as HeeHaw and The Grand Ole Opry, and even spent 2 years on the crew of the Professional Bull Riding (PBR) circuit. During his second incarnation, Greg earned his MA in education from Lincoln Memorial University and began teaching in the public school system where he spent 12 or so years in the 6th grade. Taking a break from teaching Greg opened an antique shop which he said, “was an amazing place for people to come and reminisce and not buy anything”. Greg has always had a love for science, growing up in a family heavily into Boy Scouting and the study of the flora and fauna of East Tennessee. One of his prized possessions as a child was a book of mushroom spore prints and pressed ferns. It is really great to be returning to the study of the natural world, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do said McPeak. Greg has an infinitely patient wife and two terrific children. When he has spare time he enjoys a disc golf addiction, and playing drums loudly.

Brody Thomas

Brody graduated from Carson Newman University in 2018 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. After graduating he worked in a food microbiology lab in Maryville as a Microbiology Analyst I, and later Analyst II. Brody is a Lab Analyst, working primarily with our product testing department. He also serves as the Quality Assurance Deputy, handling much of the day-to-day quality control. In his free time, Brody enjoys playing video games, playing Dungeons and Dragons, watching hockey, and he has recently started learning to play bass guitar.

Grant Ball

Grant Ball is a Laboratory Technician at Assured Bio Labs.  Originally from Michigan, Grant attended Michigan State University.  While pursuing a degree in engineering, he also worked in the Sharkey Laboratory at MSU.  Assisting in the isoprene protein pathway project, Grant realized his passion in biology would guide his career path.  Grant earned his B.S. in Biology from Oakland University, Rochester, MI, in 2016.  He gained lab experience working at Kay Automotive Graphics in Lake Orion, Michigan, before joining the Assured Bio Lab team in 2021.  His primary duties include reading and preparing mold scans, as well as preparation of air samples for DNA analysis and more. 

Grant is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking, hunting, and target shooting.  He also enjoys playing the violin, drawing, and spending time with family.  

Trey Clark

Trey Clark is a Lab Technician at Assured Bio originally from Morristown, TN. Trey attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and earned his B.S. in Microbiology in 2017. After graduating, he worked at Microbac Labs in Maryville, TN for two and a half years as a Food Analyst before joining the Assured Bio team. His main duties here include sample login, Viascan, Legionella, DNA extractions, and general lab maintenance. In his spare time Trey enjoys video games, hiking, binging TV shows, cinema, and traveling.

Rebekah Haas

Rebekah Haas is a laboratory technician at Assured Bio Labs. She earned a B.S. in Food Science and Technology from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in May of 2020. After graduating she worked at a food microbiology lab in Maryville before joining the Assured Bio team. Her role here mainly centers around DNA sample prep and extraction. During her time off she enjoys spending time with her dogs, playing video games, and creating stained glass.

Jaclyn Gibson

Jaclyn Gibson is a Laboratory Technician at Assured Bio Labs. Jaclyn earned an A.S. in Biology at East Georgia College in Swainsboro, GA with academic honors. While completing her associates, she was a part of the National Science Foundation-funded CEMSURE summer research program at Georgia Southern University in which she synthesized organic compounds to determine binding affinity to copper and zinc ions and co-authored a paper published in the Journal of Molecular Structure. She formerly attended the University of Tennessee with a concentration in Medical Lab Science, earning two scholarships and recognition on the Dean’s List. Her primary duties are sample login and prep, water analysis, Moldscan exams, and general lab maintenance. Outside of work, Jaclyn enjoys concerts, road trips, art museums, and spending time with family.

David Grant

David Grant is the Project Coordinator at Assured Bio Labs. He earned his B.S. in Microbiology and Chemistry at the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2017 and his M.S. in Microbiology from UTK in 2021. In between his degrees, he worked as a research specialist. His thesis research was in Streptomyces and microbial genes responsible for plant root colonization. His responsibilities at Assured Bio include Product Testing planning, procurement, and general project support. David enjoys running, hiking, video games, graphics, and football.

Daniel Heyes

Daniel Heyes is a Lab Analyst at Assured Bio Labs. Originally from Brentwood, TN, Daniel attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and earned his B.S. in Microbiology in 2009. During his time there he was a member of the UT Fencing club, serving as its president for two years.  Prior to joining the Assured Bio team, he worked at Microbac Labs in Maryville, TN for four and half years as a Microbiology Analyst I and later Analyst II. His main duties here at Assured Bio include sample login, Viascans, Legionella, DNA extractions, and general lab maintenance. In his spare time Daniel enjoys socializing with friends, video games, anime, tabletop gaming and weight training.

Daniel Christopher

Daniel Christopher is a Lab Aide at Assured Bio Labs. After graduating high school in 2008, Daniel attended TCAT in Harriman, TN studying website design. While attending TCAT, Daniel also worked for a small grocery chain. After completing his program at TCAT, Daniel continued his employment at the grocery chain where he was later promoted to manager. Around this time, Daniel and his wife had their first child. To allow him to spend more time with his family, Daniel found maintenance work in a private school. After a couple years here, Daniel was looking for a new challenge. This was perfect timing, as Assured Bio was looking for a motivated and fast-learning individual to join our team. As a Lab Aide, Daniel performs product testing and laboratory experiment assistance and support, preparation and quality control of sampling media, inventory tracking and maintenance, data entry and review, and other maintenance and custodial duties as needed.

Morgan O’Brien

Morgan is a Laboratory Technician at Assured Bio Labs. She earned a B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2021. She primarily works on water testing at Assured Bio. Her other responsibilities include sample login, sample data entry and review, creating water reports, general laboratory maintenance, and aiding other departments where needed. Morgan has previous work experience at the IBBR (Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology Research) where she assisted in processing proteins and creating bio reagents. In her free time, Morgan enjoys socializing with friends and family, playing with her dog and cat, as well as spending time outside.

Mason Jones

Mason Jones is a Lab Technician here at Assured Bio Labs. He earned his B.S in Agriculture from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, TN in 2021. His primary job duties at Assured Bio are sample login, data entry, Culture and DNA sample prep, and general lab maintenance. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, watching sports, traveling, and golfing.

Business Team

Jonah Stout

Jonah Stout is the Marketing Coordinator at Assured Bio Labs. He earned a B.S. in Communications from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, TN in 2021. Though he graduated college less than a year ago, Jonah has already accumulated over three years of communications, journalism, and marketing experience. He specializes in social media management, content creation, and copy writing/editing. In his free time, Jonah enjoys cooking, writing, running, and watching sports.

Isaac Sobek

Isaac Sobek is a Business Development Associate here at Assured Bio Labs. After graduating from Oak Ridge High School in 2016, he joined the United States Air Force as a Crew Chief, wrenching on planes at his home station in Washington State and serving 4 months abroad in Turkey and Qatar. After a 4 year contract with the USAF, Isaac left to join the booming cannabis industry of Washington State where he quickly became a leader, overseeing harvest operations at his particular grow facility. Isaac has now moved back to Tennessee and joined the Assured Bio team. His duties here include assisting the business team and focusing on sales and marketing with the goal of boosting company growth and sales. In his free time, Isaac enjoys playing musical instruments, riding motorcycles, and spending time outdoors with his wife.

Founder/Principal

Edward Sobek, PhD MBA

Dr. Sobek specializes in microbial and chemical issues affecting the built-environment. He and his team at Assured Bio Labs have tackled everything from viral outbreaks in medical facilities, moldy manufactured plastics, Legionella investigations to formaldehyde off-gassing in building materials. They have diagnosed mold and bacteria issues in hundreds of homes, commercial properties and complex manufacturing settings. He has worked on odor and chemical contamination in both residential and commercial properties.  Dr. Sobek’s ability to identify the root cause of contamination truly sets him apart as an outstanding problem solver.

He has examined years of historical microbiological data and the results indicate a major flaw with current detection technologies that completely miss or underestimate the true concentrations of microbes in the built environment. Hence, his insight of microbial DNA analysis and microbial ecology is vital for a successful project outcome. That and his relentless pursuit of scientific solutions are the distinguishing factors sought by the companies that engage his services.

Dr. Sobek is a PhD microbiologist with over 20 years of laboratory and field experience. His vision is to develop industry standards with DNA based diagnostics to replace antiquated technologies that often stymie the microbial investigation process. In order to achieve those aims, he has become an avid entrepreneur and inventor. He invented the novel microbial detection technology called Molecular Entrapment, which he branded into the M-TRAP® air cassette that is a CDC/NIOSH verified technology to capture airborne influenza virus and airborne Legionella pneumophila.

Capabilities and Focus

Industrial Microbiology Manufacturing: Micro-Sensitive Cosmetics, Pharmaceuticals, Food, Natural and Manufactured Wood Products, Pallets, Gypsum Board, Textiles, Leather & Plastics, Aseptic Processing, Gnotobiotics.

Built-Environment Microbiology:  Residential & Commercial Buildings, Legionella in water systems and cooling towers, Micro-sensitive Product Storage, Warehouse Facilities, & Microbial-Induced Environmental Blackening.

LinkedIn Profile

Select Clients

Hinchcliff Products Co., Reynolds Consumer Products, Taconic, Bluegrass Dairy and Food Inc, LEK Inc, Chep, University Hospitals, Tempur-Pedic, Body Blue, Flake Board, CDC/NIOSH, Columbia University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, United States Air Force

Our Consultants

Timothy M. Young, PHD

Timothy M. Young is a Professor (Full) in the Center for Renewable Carbon at the University of Tennessee (UT). He has Ph.D. in Statistics and M.S. in Statistics (minor – Operations Research) from the University of Tennessee. He also holds M.S. and B.S. degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has taught highly successful industry courses in
‘Advanced Analytics and Data Mining,’ ‘Process Analytics, Statistical Process Control | Lean Methods,’ and ‘Design of Experiments’ to more than 1,000 industry personnel since 2000.

Dwayne Elias

Dwayne Elias and his company Elias Consulting, LLC serve as a Science Adviser and Scientific Consultant to Assured Bio Labs. Dr. Elias has over 200 peer-reviewed publications and earned his B.Sc. (honors) in Biology at the University of Winnipeg and his M.Sc. in Microbiology from the University of Manitoba, both in Canada, as well as his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Oklahoma. He also currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University, an Associate Professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology and is an Academic Editor at the journal PLoS One and an Associate Editor at the Frontiers in Microbiology Journal. He was formerly an associate professor at the University of Tennessee, a Research Professor at the University of Missouri, and a Senior Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he was the team leader for Biogeochemical Transformations at Critical Interfaces and the ORNL lead scientist for discovering bacterial networks in ecosystems. Particular research focus areas are the bioremediation of toxic metals and radionuclides, the genetics, physiology, metabolism and biochemistry of environmental bacterial isolates, and the construction of model microbial communities for mechanistic studies and industrially relevant applications.

Olga Khaliukova

Olga Khaliukova is a Scientific Consultant at the Assured Bio Labs. She earned a B.S. in Management from the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv in 2011 and her M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2013. She is a member of American Industrial Hygiene Association and American Statistical Association. Olga has a great interest in process improvement and optimization and is currently working on her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. She volunteers at YWAC where she is a member of a team that manages Dogs Playing for Life program.

Brandon Hall

Brandon Hall is a scientific consultant for Assured Bio. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology, and a minor in Philosophy. After graduating, he worked in pharmaceutical research identifying drug stability in topical applications, tracking absorption rates of various molecule sizes across skin membranes, and worked on developing a method for DNA extraction from human saliva. He is currently attending Boston University working towards his Masters in Public Health with a focus of Bio Statistics. In his free time, he enjoys trying new hobbies, disc golf, the science and art of fermentation, snowboarding, kayaking, hiking and backpacking, and high adrenaline activities.

Annie Furches

Annie Furches serves as Scientific Adviser and Lead Scientific Consultant to Assured Bio. She earned a B.S. in Plant Biology and an M.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee. Previously, she served as Interim Lab Manager, Lead Scientist, and Quality Assurance Officer at Assured Bio. She is currently pursuing an Advanced Short Term Research Opportunity (ASTRO) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in genetic and metabolic engineering. In her spare time, she enjoys conducting botanical fieldwork and collaborating on genetic research projects at Lincoln Memorial University with her husband, Dr. M. Steven Furches.

Greg Adkins

Greg Adkins and his company New Frame Creative provide marketing and technology assistance to the Assured Bio team, including keeping the website running in top shape and assistance with other marketing campaigns and technology solutions. Greg is a sixth-generation Knoxvillian who created his first website in 1994 from his dorm room at the University of Tennessee. Greg is a 2020 graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and is also a lead trainer at the Alliance for Better Nonprofits in Knoxville. In his free time, Greg enjoys traveling with his family, playing the piano, and collecting vinyl records.

Michael Seale

Michael Seale serves as a digital marketing advisor at Assured Bio Labs. In 2019, Michael earned his B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing from the University of Tennessee’s Haslam School of Business. He currently specializes in digital/traditional marketing, graphic design, and videography/photography production. Mike enjoys playing golf, photography and going on hiking trips up to Smokey Mountain National Park.

Ryne Dlouhy

Ryne Dlouhy is the Vice President of Corporate Development at Assured Bio Labs. He earned a B.S. in Finance and Business Administration from Wayne State College in Wayne, NE in 2014. He has held positions in sales & customer service, accounting and finance, and previously served as the Vice President of Business Development at Assured Bio Labs. He is also an entrepreneur who has started and built several successful companies, and enjoys the ongoing puzzle of helping businesses to grow and thrive. Ryne is a bluegrass guitarist and has served as a board member of the Great Plains Bluegrass & Old Time Music Association. He also enjoys volunteering at two summer youth camps, RFKC and TRAC.