Research is focusing on the synthesis and examination of organic
systems and materials having biological import. These include organic
compounds that spontaneously self-assemble into long fibers; that
cause water to gel at very low concentrations; that form cell-like
vesicles displaying fusion and feeding behavior; that form, via a type
of natural selection, into catalysts with enzymatic properties.
Students involved with this research must first learn the
principles and methods of synthetic organic chemistry. Once the
rudiments of this skill are mastered, and new compounds and materials
have been prepared, the research branches out into investigations
making heavy use of NMR, light and electron microscopy, dynamic light
scattering, fluorescence spectroscopy, kinetics, etc.
Students trained in the above research are now working in companies
across the country specializing in food, paper products, coatings,
pharmaceuticals, bio-technology, polymers, and surfactants. Others are
in teaching/academic research.
Shown here are two pictures taken from recent research projects.
The first is an X-ray structure of a self-assembling gelating fiber
prepared from a newly synthesized amino acid derivative. This is the
first picture ever obtained of a gel fiber at the atomic level. The
second picture shows a hollow vesicle (200 mm in diameter) composed of
a simple "unnatural" lipid. Microinjection of NaI has caused
the vesicle to open up into what we call a "nanocup," the
first system of its kind.