Graduate Research

Brian T. Cooper
Associate Professor
Bioanalytical Chemistry
B.S.: Purdue University
Ph.D.: University of Arizona
Post-doc: (NIH Fellow) Iowa State University

ORAU Junior Faculty Enhancement Award
NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award

Bioanalytical Chemistry — protein analysis by:

  • capillary/channel electrophoresis;
  • ultrasensitive fluorescence detection and imaging;
  • electrospray and MALDI mass spectrometry.

My research group primarily uses capillary electrophoresis (CE) to analyze and characterize proteins. Capillary electrophoretic separations of protein “charge ladders” (otherwise pure proteins with intrinsic or induced charge heterogeneity) allow us to estimate the net charge and hydrodynamic radius of proteins in solution. We also study ligand binding to proteins using “affinity capillary electrophoresis” (ACE), which exploits the accompanying change in protein electrophoretic mobility. Combining charge ladders and ACE allows us to characterize overall conformational changes caused by ligand binding. And with laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) detection, we can study the conformational behavior of fluorescently labeled proteins under simulated intracellular conditions—especially in the presence of high concentrations of other macromolecules.

We also have an active collaboration with a group in the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics. We are using a variant of ACE called “CEMSA” (capillary electrophoretic mobility shift assay) to detect binding of transcription factors (TFs) to synthetic, fluorescently labeled DNA probes. We use this technique to experimentally validate predicted TF binding site sequences. After screening by CEMSA, we can identify affinity-purified TFs using mass spectrometry.

Bernadette T. Donovan-Merkert
Analytical Chemistry
B.S.: Duke University
Ph.D.: The University of Vermont
Post-doc: Dartmouth College; The University of Texas at Austin

National Science Foundation
Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation
Petroleum Research Foundation
Research Corporation

My group focuses on electron-transfer reactions of organometallic complexes. By oxidizing or reducing these compounds we often generate species that undergo interesting reactions or form complexes in unusual oxidation states. In many cases redox activation of organometallic complexes accelerates known reactions of these compounds, activates otherwise inert complexes, or allows reactions to occur under milder conditions. We study the reactions and their products using electrochemical methods and other instrumental techniques including, but not limited to, NMR, IR, ESR and GC/M.S..

Markus Etzkorn
Associate Professor
Organic Chemistry
Pre-diploma: University of Freiburg (Germany)
Diploma: University of Feriburg (Germany)
Dr. rer. nat. (Ph. D.): University of Freiburg (Germany)
Postdoc: USC – Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute Unusual structures (fullerenes, dodecahedrane, fluorinated graphite…) display often extraordinary properties that reward organic chemists for all the effort taken to achieve a challenging synthetic goal. Using contemporary tools of synthetic organic chemistry my group explores the potential of new (functionalized) hydrofluorocarbons as precursors to applied materials. In addition photochemical conversions of suitable hydrofluorocarbons could ultimately lead to highly strained cage systems with unique physicochemical properties.

Eva Ge
Assistant Professor
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.

Joanna K. Krueger
Associate Professor
B.A.(ACS): Kalamazoo College
Ph.D.: Princeton University
Post-doc: (NIH/NRSA Fellow)
U. T. Southwestern Medical Center
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Research Corporation- Cottrell College Science Award
ORAU Junior Faculty Enhancement Award
North Carolina Biotechnology Award

Biophysical Chemistry
My laboratory is interested in obtaining structural information on biomolecular associations using the techniques of small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering, chemical cross-linking with peptide analysis by Mass Spec, selected-site mutagenesis and spectroscopy (FTIR, CD, UV-VIS). We will use these data to build molecular models of protein:protein complexes and thus, to provide new insights into the molecular basis of protein interactions.
Currently, we are looking at a protein, gelsolin, that when activated, through increases in intracellular calcium, binds to the cytoskeletal actin and regulates actins’ ability to self-associate. This regulation results in cell shape changes essential to the proper functioning of the cell. By studying the structure of the molecular complex between actin and gelsolin, we will provide key insights into molecular basis for several disease states related to improper functioning of the cell, such as cancer.

Laura Casto-Boggess
Assistant Professor
Analytical Chemistry

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.

Jordan C. Poler
Physical Chemistry
B.S.: State University of NY at Brockport
Ph.D.: University of NC at Chapel Hill
Post-doc: Princeton University

Materials: 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. semiconductors and metals) and “soft” materials (e.g. self-assembled monolayers, biologically interesting molecules and Langmuir films).

Jay Foley
Associate Professor
Theoretical Physical Chemistry
B.S.: Georgia Institute of Technology M.S
Ph.D.: University of Chicago Ph.D. (Chemistry): 
Post-doc: Center for Nanoscale Materials, Argonne National Lab 

Dr. Foley is a theoretical physical chemist with an interest in light-matter interactions in nanoscale and molecular systems.

Christopher Bejger
Associate Professor
Organic Chemistry
B.S.: University of Oregon
Ph.D.: The University of Texas at Austin 
Post-doc: Columbia University

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

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

My research interests ultimately seek to use synthetic chemistry to modify the properties of advanced materials and to study systems in which advanced porous materials incorporating photonic confinement effects are used to alter the chemical properties and reactivity of intercalated molecules.

Jerry (Jay) Troutman
B.S.: East Carolina University
Ph.D.: University of Kentucky Medical Center
Post-doc: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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.

Mammalian Isoprenylation: We are also interested in the role of the downstream processing of prenylated proteins in particular the enzymes involved in this important biological process, and the possible targeting of these proteins for the treatment of diseases such as cancer.

Juan Luis Vivero-Escoto, Ph. D.
Organic/Materials Chemistry

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, renewable energy, and catalysis. Our approach is multidisciplinary, interfacing chemistry, biology, and material science. By its very nature our research will provide an excellent training environment for undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows. Students in our group are exposed to and trained in synthesis and characterization of small molecules (organic and inorganic alike), polymers, and nanomaterials. Specific techniques they learn include, but not limited to, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), absorption and emission spectroscopies, dynamic light scattering (DLS), transmission and scanning electron microscopies (TEM and SEM); and basic cell culture and characterization techniques.

Listed below are the three main research projects we are pursuing: – Multifunctional hybrid nanoparticles as a delivery platform for photodynamic therapy and diagnosis. – Boronic acid-based nanoscale coordination polymers as novel metal/covalent organic frameworks with potential applications in drug delivery. – Hierarchically assembled titania-phosphonate dendrimer-encapsulated nanoparticles with potential application in photocatalysis.

Michael G. Walter
Organic/Materials Chemistry
B.S.: University of Dayton
M.S.: Portland State University
Ph. D.: Portland State University
Post-doc: California Institute of Technology

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 new organic semiconductors, a field where synthetic organic chemists can contribute in a significant way.