Eva Ge, Ph.D.

Eva received her BS in chemistry in 2013 from Cornell University, where she worked with Prof. Yimon Aye. She then moved to Princeton University for her PhD studies with Prof. Tom Muir, studying the biochemistry of the chromatin modifying complex PRC2. She joined the Chang lab in 2019 and is interested in the role of copper in biology. In her spare time, Eva enjoys live music and keeping up with current events.

Education & Training:

B.A. Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University

Ph.D. Chemistry, Princeton University

Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California Berkeley

Fields of interest: Bioinorganic chemistry, chemical biology, peptide and protein chemistry, enzymology

Research focus: The Ge group is interested in the chemistry and biology of modified proteins, specifically the crosstalk between covalent protein posttranslational modifications (PTMs) and metal binding, and how this crosstalk contributes to human health and the development of disease states such as cancer and neurodegeneration. Research will combine techniques in peptide and protein chemistry, biochemistry (including air-free), enzymology, and cell biology.



Laura Casto-Boggess, Ph.D.

Education & Training:

B.S. Chemistry & Mathematics, West Virginia Wesleyan College

Ph.D. Analytical Chemistry, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Berkeley

Postdoctoral Fellow, West Virginia University

Field of Interests: Analytical Chemistry, Microfluidics, Capillary Electrophoresis, Measurement Science, Astrobiology

Dr. Casto-Boggess’ research interests are at the interface of measurement science, engineering, planetary science, and biology to build instrumentation and advance analysis methods for understanding life or extraterrestrial chemistry out of this world. Research in the Casto-Boggess Lab combines microfluidic technologies, capillary electrophoresis, and optical detection methods to tackle problems currently limited by measurement science capabilities and address concerns around small volume sample handling, rapid analysis, high sensitivity detection, and temporal resolution.


Martin Panigaj, Ph.D.

M.S.: P. J. Safarik University in Kosice, Slovak Republic

Ph.D.: Charles University in Prague, First Faculty of Medicine, Czech Republic

Post-doc: (ORISE fellow) FDA, CBER, Division of Cellular and Gene Therapy

Field of Interest: Everything about RNA or rephrasing Bubba from the movie Forrest Gump- “Anyway, like I was sayin’, RNA is the fruit of the nature. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. There’s uh, RNA-kabobs, RNA creole, RNA gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple RNA, lemon RNA, coconut RNA, pepper RNA, RNA soup, RNA stew, RNA salad, RNA and potatoes, RNA burger, RNA sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

Research Focus:

immunomodulation by nucleic acid-based nanoparticles (NANPs)

– conditional activation of nucleic-acid based nanoparticles (NANPs)

– assembly of functional NANPs in bacterial and mammalian cells

– targeted delivery of NANPs by aptamers

So far in theory I am also interested in the evolution of functional noncoding RNAs and the viral RNA motives that promote virus survival.

Christopher Bejger, Ph.D.


B.S.: University of Oregon Ph.D: The University of Texas at Austin Post-doc: Columbia University

Field of Interest: Organic/Inorganic/Materials Chemistry

Research Focus:

Research in the Bejger group is focused on the design, synthesis, and assembly of molecular clusters for energy applications. The chemical and electronic structures of molecular clusters can be modified synthetically; this allows us to tune their physical properties and create new materials with nanoscale control. We synthesize these custom-made cluster building blocks and use them to construct functional materials and devices useful for improving charge transport, energy conversion and storage. Specifically, we are studying crystalline porous frameworks, solar cells, and redox flow batteries prepared from hybrid organic-inorganic clusters and small molecules.

Research Group Site

Kirill Afonin, Ph.D.

Education: M.S.: Saint Petersburg State University Ph.D.: Bowling Green State University

Post-doc: (NIH Research Fellow) National Institutes of Health; (Postdoctoral Fellow) University of California Santa Barbara

Field of Interest: RNA Nanobiology and Drug Delivery

Research Focus:

Dr. Afonin’s Research Site

My expertise is in computational and experimental RNA biology. Nucleic acids, including both DNA and RNA, are biopolymers that can be programmed to fold into nucleic acid nanoparticles (NANPs) that have beneficial uses in nanotechnology with broad applications. We are using this promising technology to pursue the following objectives:

1. ​Nanodesign—The goal of our studies is to correlate the folding and interacting principles of natural RNAs with their biological functions. We then apply this knowledge to combine the motifs in a rational way to form definite and functional RNA nanostructures with precisely controlled and fine-tunable properties. We also focus on engineering novel bioresponsive materials and hydrogels.

2. ​Immunology—The immunotoxicity and immunomodulatory effects of NANPs are poorly understood and have been one of the major impediments in bringing NANPs to clinical trials. We have explored how the optimization of size, shape, and composition of NANPs affects immune stimulation.

3. ​Delivery—The broader therapeutic use of NANPs is diminished by their inability to cross biological membranes due to the negative charge of nucleic acids and their rapid degradation by nucleases in the bloodstream. We aim to investigate possible ways to use synthetic carriers to overcome this barrier.

4. ​Biosensing—By utilizing nanomaterials in biosensor development, we aim to increase the sensitivity of analysis through a myriad of sensors, including programmable nanoprobes and nanopore sensing.

5. ​Therapeutics— Multiple clinical trials with several FDA approvals have demonstrated the great potential for RNA pharmaceuticals. We aim to further develop RNA nanoparticles that have a potential to actively self-assemble and further identify, target, and eliminate diseases.

6. ​Dynamic structures—The development of nucleic acid-based logic gates and switches provide conditionally-activated pathways which can simultaneously sense and eliminate targeted diseases. In designing NANPs which can dynamically interact and communicate with one another and their environments, we aim to utilize these structures as multi-tools of nanotechnology.


Dr. Afonin graduated from Saint Petersburg State University with a M.S. in Chemistry, followed by a Ph.D. in Photochemistry earned from Bowling Green State University, Ohio. In addition, he also obtained a Graduate Certificate in Bioinformatics, Proteomics/Genomics. In the following three years, Dr. Afonin completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California Santa Barbara. In 2011, he was invited as a Research Fellow to the National Cancer Institute, NIH where he established and managed an experimental branch within the Computational RNA Structure Group. He started his tenure-track appointment at UNC Charlotte in 2015, was promoted with permanent tenure to the rank of Associate Professor in 2019, and to the rank of full professor in 2021. Dr. Afonin currently serves as a founding council member and vice-president of International Society of RNA Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine. Among other awards, he is a recipient of two NIH Fellows Awards for Research Excellence (FARE), a prestigious NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA R35), and two NIH R01s.

Recent Publications:

Full list of publications can be found: Google Scholar and/or Pubmed

Afonin's Lab


2021 Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA R35), NIH

2021 Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award

2018 Elected Full Member of Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Honor Society

2015 Wells Fargo Foundation Faculty Excellence Award

2015 Wells Fargo Faculty Fellowship Award

2014 NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE)

2013 NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE)

Students’ Awards:

2022 Alex Rolband (Ph.D. student): Graduate School Summer Fellowship, UNC Charlotte

2021 Alex Rolband (Ph.D. student): winner of the Mining for GOLD competition, UNCC

2021 Melina Richardson (undergraduate): UNC Charlotte Award in Biochemistry

2021 Doaha Awad (undergraduate): best oral presentation in Science, Technology, and Engineering at 2021 Undergraduate Research Conference (URC), UNC Charlotte

2021 Morgan Chandler (Ph.D. student): 2021 Dissertation Completion Fellowship, UNCC

2021 Preston L. Tolley (undergraduate student), J.J. Hendley Scholarship, UNCC

2021 Jonathan Black (undergraduate): best oral presentation in Cellular/Molecular Biology at 82nd Annual Southeastern Biologists Research Conference

2021 Seraphim Kozlov (high school student): 2nd place in Biomedical Engineering at the Frederick County Science and Engineering Fair

2020 Morgan Chandler (Ph.D. student): Graduate Student Poster Talk Award Winner, NC Photochem 2020 (virtual)

2020 Weina Ke (Ph.D. student): 2020 Dissertation Completion Fellowship, UNC Charlotte

2020 Justin Halman (Ph.D. student): 2020 Dissertation Completion Fellowship, UNC Charlotte

2020 Morgan Chandler (Ph.D. student): 2020-21 Thomas L. Reynolds Graduate Student Research Award

2019 Morgan Chandler (Ph.D. student): First Place at Poster 2.0 Competition, UNC Charlotte

2019 Dana Elasmar (undergraduate): James Hovick Memorial Award, UNC Charlotte

2019 Alex Rolband (undergraduate): 2019 Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry, ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry and the Journal of Analytical Chemistry, UNC Charlotte

2019 Justin Halman (Ph.D. student): First Place Overall in the 9th Annual CBES Graduate Student Poster Competition

2019 Morgan Chandler (Ph.D. student): CBES MED Associate Winner in the 9th Annual CBES Graduate Student Poster Competition

2019 Justin Halman (Ph.D. student): Graduate School Summer Fellowship, UNC Charlotte

2019 Allison Tran (undergraduate): Best Oral Presentation Award at the 2019 Undergraduate Research Conference, UNC Charlotte

2019 Morgan Chandler (Ph.D. student): Second Place in CLAS Oral Presentations at the 2019 Graduate Research Symposium, UNC Charlotte

2019 Morgan Chandler (Ph.D. student): Best Oral Presentation Award at Gordon Research Seminar on RNA Nanotechnology (Ventura, CA)

2018 Justin Halman (Ph.D. student): First Place for Oral Presentation at the Multifunctional Materials Workshop, NC State University

2018 Morgan Chandler (Ph.D. student): Second Place for Oral Presentation at the Multifunctional Materials Workshop, NC State University

2018 Melina Richardson (undergraduate): Second Place in the Summer Research Symposium, UNC Charlotte

2018 Sameer Sajja (M.S. student): Summer Graduate Fellowship Award from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, UNC Charlotte

2018 Lauren Lee (undergraduate): UNC Charlotte Award in Biochemistry

2017 Strahinja Talic (undergraduate): ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry Award

2017 Morgan Chandler (undergraduate): UNC Charlotte Award in Biochemistry

2017 Justin Halman (Ph.D. student): First Place in CLAS Oral presentations at UNC Charlotte’s 2017 Graduate Research Symposium

2017 Justin Halman (Ph.D. student): CiRA Research Internship for Summer 2017, used for travel and one month of work at Kyoto University (Kyoto, Japan)

2017 Justin Halman (Ph.D. student): Second Place overall in the 7th Annual CBES Graduate Student Poster Competition

2016 Justin Halman (Ph.D. student): Second Place overall in the 6th Annual CBES Graduate Student Poster Competition

2016 Kyle Roark (M.S. student): Herschel and Cornelia Everett Foundation First Year Graduate Fellowship

Michael G. Walter, Ph.D.


B.S.: University of Dayton
M.S.: Portland State University
Ph. D.: Portland State Univeristy
Post-doc: California Institute of Technology

Field of Interest: Organic/Materials Chemistry

Walter Research Group

Research Focus:

Research in the Walter lab focuses on the synthesis and integration of organic conjugated polymers and dye molecules for solar energy conversion applications. Nature accomplishes the task of solar energy conversion by using molecular systems to direct photoinduced reactions that ultimately store solar energy in the form of chemical bonds. We attempt to mimic these processes by designing materials that absorb solar photons and efficiently convert them into electricity or fuels such as hydrogen. Organic semiconductors are desirable for these applications because they offer the potential for an inexpensively processed, lightweight, and flexible photoactive material. Unique to this effort is the development of new porphyrin and corrole macrocyclic dyes that exhibit interesting optoelectronic properties. Characterization of the fundamental photoinduced electron transfer properties of synthesized materials is conducted using photoelectrochemical techniques, spectroscopy, and device integration. New, promising light absorbing systems are studied in polymer solar cell and in dye-sensitized TiO2 solar cell configurations. In addition, efforts are made to tune photoinduced electron transfer mechanisms at organic and inorganic interfaces through molecular design and nanostructure. One of the ultimate goals of these efforts is the design of an artificial photosynthetic system that uses inexpensive molecular semiconductors and catalysts to convert water and carbon dioxide into usable fuels such as hydrogen and methanol. The advancement of this field rests on the discovery of new organic semiconductors, a field where synthetic organic chemists can contribute in a significant way.

Juan Luis Vivero-Escoto, Ph.D.


B.S. & M.S.: National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico
Ph.D.: Iowa State University
Post-doc: University of NC at Chapel Hill
IH R15/National Cancer Institute

Field of Interest: Organic/Materials Chemistry

Research Focus:

Research in our group focuses on the design and synthesis of novel hybrid inorganic-organic materials for a wide variety of applications, predominantly in biomedicine and renewable energy. Our vision is that by combining basic science understanding with material science, some of the most relevant problems (cancer and other diseases, energy, and environmental issues) of our time will be addressed. In particular, we will focus our initial efforts toward developing nanoparticle-based technologies for biomedical applications. Our approach is multidisciplinary, interfacing chemistry, biology, material science, and engineering. By its very nature our research will provide an excellent training environment for undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows.

Listed below are the three main research projects we are pursuing:

  • Multifunctional hybrid nanoparticles as a delivery platform for photodynamic therapy and diagnosis.
  • Development of novel nanoparticle-based strategies for the intracellular delivery of siRNA/DNA or therapeutic proteins.
  • Hybrid silica-based nanoparticles for target-specific delivery of therapeutics agents for the treatment of cancer.
  • Design, synthesis and applications of novel photosensitizers for the photodynamic inactivation treatment of multidrug resistance bacteria.

Development of hybrid molecular clusters based on cage polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane building blocks and 2D-/3D-assembled materials.

Research Group Website

Jerry (Jay) Troutman, Ph.D.


B.S.: East Carolina University
Ph.D.: University of Kentucky Medical Center
Post-doc: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Field of Interest: Biochemistry

Research Focus:

Bacterial Polysaccharides: Here we will attempt to understand the biochemistry of polymeric sugars called polysaccharides that coat the surface of specific bacteria, and play an important role in interactions between symbiotic gut microbes and their mammalian hosts.

Research Page

Thomas A. Schmedake, Ph.D.


B.S.: Knox College
Ph.D.: University of Wisconsin
Post-doc: UC San Diego

Field of Interest: Inorganic Chemistry

Research Focus:

Synthesis of novel silicon containing compounds and materials, especially compounds or complexes in which silicon is used as a substitute for a carbon atom or a transition metal. Specific focus areas include redox-active hexacoordinate silicon complexes, silicon heterocycles, and silicon-based conducting polymers.

Research Group Page

Jordan C. Poler, Ph.D.


B.S.: State University of NY at Brockport
Ph.D.: University of NC at Chapel Hill
Post-doc: Princeton University

Field of Interest: Physical Chemistry

Research Focus:

Most of my research interests are materials related. My efforts are toward the fundamental studies of complex systems at the nanoscale with regard to applications of materials at the macroscale. Complex systems exist at surfaces, interfaces and thin films. The experimental techniques that I use to study these systems are both optically and electronically based. Scanning probe microscopies are the work-horses of my research. In particular, the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and the newly developed scanning thermopower microscope (STPM) are central in my studies of surfaces and interfaces. The complex systems that are of most interest to me are in the areas of both; “hard” materials (e.g. nanotubes, nanoparticles, semiconductors and metals) and “soft” materials (e.g. self-assembled monolayers, biologically interesting molecules and Langmuir films).

The Poler Research Group consists of students from the Nanoscale Science Ph.D. Program, the Optical Science and Engineering Ph.D. program, the Master’s of Science program in Chemistry, undergraduates from various disciplines (Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Engineering, and Math), and high school students from around the state. We pursue fundamental studies of molecular and nanoscale systems to understand directed and self-assembly processes. We aim to understand directed and self-assembly processes. We aim to design new particles and materials with higher functionality and effectiveness. Our long-term interests are toward: novel mechanisms for mechanical transducers and sensors in NEMS, energy storage in supercapacitors, catalytic solar fuel production, water purification, and optical metamaterials.

We start by synthesizing novel coordination complexes that have useful and tunable spectral, electrochemical, and mechanical properties. We synthesize and purify single walled carbon nanotubes. We use various metal nanoparticles, quantum dots, and nanostructured carbons linked together by our coordination complexes to form higher order hybrid-nanomaterials. Some of these novel particles can be assembled into supraparticle assemblies with novel properties and function.

Poler Group Home Page