Faculty Research Interests

Amanda is an inorganic chemist who is interested in the study of biomimetic transition metal compounds, especially those that exhibit spin-crossover behavior. Biomimetic transition metal compounds are molecular models for important metal-containing biochemical structures such as enzymes, and provide insight into the active sites and reactivity of these structures. Spin-crossover compounds are molecules that undergo a dramatic change in magnetic behavior due to changes in conditions such as temperature, pressure, and light. These compounds have potential applications in molecular switches, for data storage, and as optical indicators of temperature. Amanda's Profile
Murphy's research interests center around taking advantage of the unique properties of nano-materials. The small size is useful for developing portable multiplexed sensors for the measurement of multiple analytes with the same device. Individual sensors can be developed for measurement in confined volumes (i.e., inside cells). In an ongoing process nano-technology is being incorporated into lower and upper level chemistry courses to give students some understanding of this growing field. As this research is an application of visible light spectroscopy, knowledge in this area is also being used to develop nondestructive methods for studies in art and archaeology. Murphy's Profile

The Clayton research group focuses on the electrical and chemical properties of solid-state materials as they pertain to energy storage. We investigate these materials as candidates for use in energy storage devices that include batteries, field-effect transistors, electrochromics, and supercapacitors. We also study the synthetic-structure relationships of these electronically and structurally diverse class of materials to understand function and target new compositions. Student projects integrate inorganic, materials, and sustainable chemistry centered on the development of scalable and inexpensive deposition techniques for the production of functional single-phase materials and multilayered structures.

Acinetobacter baylyi ADP1 is of interest to scientists due to its ability to utilize a diverse set of nutrients as a source of carbon and nitrogen, and to its high level of competence with regards to natural transformation (1,2). Recent findings showed that A. baylyi ADP1 survives starvation induced conditions during long term stationary phase through upregulation of thirty genes, approximately 25% of which are denoted conserved hypothetical genes (3). Conserved hypothetical genes are those that have been identified through genetic analysis, but have not had a protein product identified. Subsequently, collaborators and I have identified that a number of associated genes are encoded in an operon, suggesting that they work together to confer resistance to starvation conditions (4). The goal of my lab is to clone these genes and characterize their biological function. We are initially focusing on genes that have been identified by bioinformatics to encode for enzymes with testable function. We have initially used bioinformatics, and identified genes that potentially encode for a cysteine protease (gene ACIAD1960), and a triad of genes that occur together which encode a kinase (gene ACIAD1964), and a phosphatase (gene ACIAD1965) and a protein of unknown function (gene ACIAD1966) . We have confirmed that gene ACIAD1960, does indeed encode a cysteine protease (4). Peggy's Profile
Specifically, we will:
1). Characterize the gene product for ACIAD1960, the cysteine protease, StiP. We will characterize the solution conditions that contribute to maximal activity, including pH, ionic strength, metal ion dependence and contribution of reducing agents.
2). Clone and characterize the gene product for ACIAD1964. We will test the hypothesis that the protein that is encoded by this gene is a kinase, as has been indicated by bioinformatics approaches.
3). Clone and characterize the gene product for ACIAD1965. We will test the hypothesis that the protein that is encoded by this gene is a phosphatase, as has been indicated by bioinformatics approaches.
4). Clone and characterize the gene product for ACIAD1966. We will test the hypothesis that the protein that is encoded by this gene forms a multimeric complex with the gene products of ACIAD1964 and ACIAD1965.
1). Barbe, V., et al., (2004). Unique features revealed by the genome sequence of Acinetobacter sp. ADP1, a versatile and naturally transformation competent bacteriumNucleic Acids Research, 32(19), 5766-5779.
2). de Berardinis, et. Al., (2009). Acinetobacer bayli ADP1 as a model for metabolic system biology. Current Opinion in Microbiology, 12, 568-576.
3). Lostroh, C. P., Voyles, B. A. (2010). Acinetobacter baylyi Stavation-Induced Genes Identified through Incubation in Long-Term Stationary Phase. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 76(14), 4905-4908.
4). Reichert, et al., (2013) Acinetobacter baylyi Long Term Stationary Phase Protein StiP Is a Protease Rerquired for Normal Cell Morphology and Resistance to Tellurite. (2013) Journal of Microbiology, 59(11): 726-736.
Amy is a medicinal chemist whose research involves the design and synthesis of new drug candidates. Her recent work in the pharmaceutical industry has included the investigation of new treatments for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. She's currently undertaking new collaborative research projects to address neglected tropical diseases such as African sleeping sickness and malaria. Amy's Profile

Eli's is an analytical and materials chemist. Below are descriptions of his current research interests. Eli's Profile

Developing a sub-$1, Simple, and Open-Source Sensor for Heavy Metals in Drinking Water

In low-resource settings, meeting the need for high-quality environmental chemical testing requires overcoming challenges of harsh transportation and storage conditions, non-technically trained users, limited infrastructure for support and maintenance, and an economy that cannot afford expensive solutions. We aim to develop and employ new bipolar electrochemical sensors for truly simple, open-source, high-quality, low-cost water quality diagnostics. The sensors combine aspects of conventional anodic stripping voltammetry, wireless bipolar electrochemistry, and light-emitting reactions to quantitate aqueous heavy metals in water. This project has thus far produced the first demonstration of a closed-cell BPE sensor utilizing a cathodic electrochemiluminescent reaction scheme for optical readout. With initial sensor development, a novel device fabrication technology based on simple laser ablation of commercial conductive glass substrates was also introduced. The current sensor transduction scheme has also been extended to include an all solid-state optical readout that provides performance metrics of sub-ppb detection limits, device precision (n = 10) of ~1%, and per sensor costs of less than $1.

The Fountain Valley Water Project: A Local Citizen-Science Chemical Contamination Initiative

PFAS (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances) are a family of nearly 5000 human-made compounds which persist in most environments without breaking down. Their distinctive chemical structures make them especially useful in hydraulic fluids, in carpets and textiles, in firefighting foams, as well as in everyday products like Teflon pans, waterproof clothing, cosmetics, and oil-resistant food packaging. The few epidemiological studies conducted thus far correlate long-term human exposure with kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and cognitive development issues. Since 1970, the Peterson Air Force Base in Southeast Colorado Springs has dispensed an unknown volume of PFAS (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substance)-containing foam used in firefighting drills into the surrounding soil which leeched into the Widefield Aquifer, a key source of drinking water for the over 70,000 residents. This project puts forth a complementary community-centered citizen-science study of the fate and transport of a suite of PFAS compounds in the affected area. This non-partisan longitudinal research project aims for complete and total transparency by making all results publicly available and accessible, with the interpretation and discussion of project results oriented towards the needs of a community audience.

Molecular Crystallization within the Electrical Double Layer

In pharmaceutical drugs, molecules can often crystallize in several different arrangements called polymorphs. Even when the molecular identity remains the same, simple differences in the packing motif can dramatically affect drug solubility and downstream bioactivity in patients. Controlling molecular polymorphism typically requires crystal seeding or electrostatic influence with exogenous salts, both of which can serve as contamination sources, are difficult to implement at scale, and ultimately impose downstream cost to the consumer. Recent molecular dynamics simulations have indicated molecular nucleation to be sensitive to large external electric fields, yet little is known about the molecular-scale interactions. This project investigates how supersaturated solutions of model molecular systems like paracetamol (i.e. Tylenol) nucleate and crystallize within the electrical double layer (i.e. metal/solution interfaces) where electric fields can exceed

Neena is a nucleic acid biochemist who investigates the rules for the formation of RNA structures through thermodynamic analyses. She and her research students study small RNA that form unique structures or have interesting physiological properties, such as a small RNA derived from AIDS-causing HIV-1 virus called the TAR RNA. Her research interests include developing new pedagogical methods for teaching science. She has developed methods to use discussions in science courses along with using Research-Based and Service Learning approaches. She is especially interested in developing meaningful science outreach activities for her students. Neena's Profile
Dr. Kisunzu's research interests are related to the formation and application of highly strained and reactive compounds called benzynes, as well as related compounds. Once formed, these intermediates can participate in a variety of reactions to access different carbon frameworks, which can then be used to synthesize biologically or medically relevant small molecules. Specific research directions include: 1) exploring the reactivity of benzynes with different nucleophiles, 2) developing methods to synthesize and use aromatic alkynes in systems of different ring sizes (5, 6, and 7-membered rings), 3) exploring new methods for generating benzyne intermediates, and 4) using computer modeling methods and programs to analyze the intermediates and their reactivity. Jessica's Profile
Sally's research interests are in theoretical physical chemistry and applied mathematics. Sally's Profile
Habiba is an organic chemist whose research interests are in the area of organofluorine chemistry. She is interested in the design and synthesis of fluorinated analogs of antimalarials whose use is limited due to adverse side effects. Her approach involves strategically introducing fluorinated groups in an attempt to eliminate these adverse side effects. In addition, recent studies show that introduction of fluorine and fluorinated groups in a drug can greatly enhance the efficacy of the drug thus allowing the design of fluorinated antimalarials with potentially improved pharmaceutical profiles. Habiba's Profile
Nate Bower has on-going research interests in the application of analytical chemistry to questions in archaeology, art and material culture conservation, ecology, the fate and transport of chemicals in the environment, forensic science, and numismatics. He usually works in collaboration with students and faculty from other disciplines, crossing the traditional boundaries of chemistry. Recent work has focused primarily on applications involving isotopes or chemical ecology. Nate's Profile

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