Our interdisciplinary research group seeks to provide a mechanistic basis for a quantitative understanding of nanoscale phenomena in environmental and biological systems. We focus on studying the critical roles of organics in the design and successful implementation of nanomaterials as well as their impact on environmental health.
As nanoparticles enter into biological systems, they are immediately exposed to a variety and concentration of proteins, and it is the nanoparticle-protein complexes rather than the nanoparticles alone that determine the resulting biological responses. Binding selectivity is an important design feature of effective and safe nanomaterials. For example, large differences in nanoparticles’ binding affinity with intended target (e.g., membrane receptor protein) and similar proteins in the serum are often a desirable quality for maximizing the penetration into cells. We work with material chemists to understand how surface features of nanoparticles determine their interactions with proteins.
In most environments, most bacteria occur as biofilms where cells are attached and surrounded by a secreted matrix of “sticky” extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). The EPS matrix is a critical target in the search for novel strategies to (de)stabilize biofilms. Knowledge on how nanoparticles interacts with the matrix is an essential prerequisite to exploitation. We are using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to identify different diffusive behaviors of nanoparticles within the porous EPS matrix.
Concerns related to nanoparticle cytotoxicity and drug delivery have attracted attention to the problem of the passage of nanoparticles of diverse natures through the cell membrane. The complexity of the cell membrane structure along with the highly dynamic nature of lipid-lipid and lipid-protein interactions in the cell membrane make nanoparticle-cell interactions difficult to investigate in real time. As such, we are using supported lipid bilayers (SLB) as a simplified artificial membrane to study membrane disruption upon nanoparticle deposition.
- Postdoctoral Research Associate in Environmental Engineering at Duke University, 2007-2008
- Postdoctoral Research Associate in Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University, 2005-2007
- PhD in Philosophy, Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2005
- Master of Science, Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2002
- Bachelor of Science, Environmental Sciences & Biology at McGill University, 2000