Research Project: Polymer-drug conjugates to overcome systemic delivery barriers
Conventional small molecule drugs and large macromolecular drugs have significant and distinctly different delivery barriers. For example, small molecule drugs, such as the chemotherapeutic doxorubicin, is highly hydrophobic, thus administration requires toxic cosolvents to aid blood solubility. Macromolecular drugs, on the other hand, suffer from enzymatic degradation and inactivation, difficulty in targeting to the appropriate cells and transversing the cell membrane, and often become degraded intracellularly once endocytosed. We are investigating polymer-drug complexes or polymer-drug conjugates to overcome these barriers and modulate drug delivery.
Research Project: Platinum Catalysis in Fuel Cells: Spillover Effects
Platinum is the best catalyst for hydrogen and oxygen electrodes, both used in fuel cells. It is reported that the presence of "inert" Pt not exposed to the electrolyte can accelerate the catalytic performance. It is suspected that hydrogen spillover is responsible for the phenomenon. It is proposed to experimentally investigate the effect of "inert" Pt on the performance of Pt catalyzed hydrogen and oxygen electrodes.
Research Project: Genomics Study of Microbial Production of Bio-ethanol and Bio-hydrogen from Cellulosic Biomass as Renewable Energy Sources
The overall goal of this project is to turn waste biomass, such as grass clippings, cornstalks, and wood chips, into usable hydrogen or ethanol. The short-term objective is to understand how the bacterium controls the production of these two energy sources. Energy experts expect ethanol from biomass to replace at least 30 percent of the national gasoline consumption for transportation by 2030, and hydrogen is a promising future energy source that can be used in fuel cells with high efficiency. Deriving these energy sources from cellulosic biomass makes them renewable, eliminates competition with food supplies, and reduces carbon dioxide emission. The bacterium, called C. thermocellum, has the very rare ability to break down tough plant cellulose and convert it to hydrogen and ethanol. The DNA sequence of the genome of this bacterium, which contains more than 3,000 genes, has been determined. We plan to investigate the interactions among these thousands of genes and to formulate new strategies to efficiently produce hydrogen and ethanol. Molecular cloning, DNA microarrays and proteomic approaches will be employed to facilitate the study. Prior knowledge of biology and molecular biology will be useful for the project.
Research Project: Synthesis and Characterization of Supramolecular Networks
Supramolecular ionic networks can be formed by blending together (di/tri)carboxylic acids (di/tri)alkyl amines. These molecules bind together through a combination of ionic and hydrogen bonds and behave like solids at room temperature. Similar supramolecular membranes are finding applications in fuel cells, dialysis membranes, gas separation membranes, and self-healing materials. The objective of this project is to better understand network formation from the basis of simple acid-base considerations. Working closely with another undergraduate who started this last summer, new molecular networks will be formed and their mechanical properties will be studied using rheological techniques. If time permits, proton conductivity of prepared networks will be measured to relate proton mobility to the acid/base characteristics of the formed networks. Interested students must have completed at least one (preferably two) semesters of organic chemistry, and organic chemistry lab, and must be willing and have the perseverance to independently propose and test scientifically motivated hypotheses.