A key issue for life is cellular sensing and signaling. We work at the interface between inorganic, nanomaterials, and biochemistry to understand and create systems for sensing. Bioinorganic chemistry is a common element in our work, as metals play a central role in biological sensing.
Cellular responses to low O2 (hypoxia) are central to proliferation and cancer. We combine the tools of enzymology and chemistry to understand the reactivity, dynamics, and regulation of human enzymes that sense O2 through their action on the transcription factor called the hypoxia inducible factor (HIF). These enzymes are Fe(II), alpha-ketoglutarate dependent oxygenases which turn-off HIF in the presence of O2. The long-range goal of this work is to understand how the second coordination sphere around the Fe(II) controls O2-activation, and understand how enzyme dynamics impacts the hydroxylation of the conformationally flexible HIF substrate.
Explosives sensing is of incredible importance for modern shipping and law enforcement. We work with a family of fluorescent coordination complexes which are useful in new explosives-sensing strategies. We have discovered a sensor-array format for discriminating different explosives molecules, as well as a turn-on fluorescence sensor for explosives.
Developing new tools to sense biological signaling molecules is an enormous challenge. Surface Enhanced Raman (SERS) provides a strategy to detect analytes using nanoparticles hybridized with designed sensing molecules. My group combines spectroscopy with synthesis of vibrationally responsive sensors to detect metals, metabolites, and signaling molecules.