Department of

Chemistry & Biochemistry

Research Pipelines

Research in the Chemistry Department broadly aims to use the tools of molecular science in solving some of the world's most pressing questions, and spans organic, medicinal, theoretical, biological, analytical, physical, and inorganic chemistry. Our chemists are involved in development of next-generation cancer therapeutics, new catalytic methods for C-H bond activation, solar cell engineering, computer-guided drug design, and nanoparticle formulation chemistry, methods for bioanalytical mass spectrometry, among others. 

Drug Discovery & Medicinal Chemistry Core

Investigators: Njoo, Clark, Brah, Renganathan, Yamamoto

The Drug Discovery Core in the Chemistry Department seeks to develop novel chemical entities in treating human disease. Current targets and research campaigns in the Chemistry Department Drug Discovery core include:

  • Development of novel anticancer agents

  • Optimization of natural product bioactives for cancer

  • Antibody drug conjugate development

  • Chemical synthesis of bioactive motifs and chemical entities

  • Computer-guided drug discovery

  • Synthesis of antiretroviral compounds for treating HIV/AIDS

  • Development of novel antimicrobial and antibacterial agents

Eugenal.jpg
A Closer Look
blactam.png

Materials Science & Nanoengineering

Investigators: Patel, Yamamoto, Renganathan

Several groups at ASDRP are involved in the development of novel materials for drug delivery, green energy, catalysis, and materials science. Here, we interface expertise in the molecular and physical sciences with the goal of producing functional materials 

  • Development of lipid nanoparticles for in vivo drug delivery

  • Photovoltaic cell engineering and electrochemistry

  • Graphene quantum dots (GQD) for photocatalysis

  • Green energy engineering 

IMG-8364.jpg
syntheticnan.png
Fibre Optics

Computational and Theoretical Chemistry

Investigators: Brah, Njoo, Downing (CSEN)

At the heart of our computer-guided campaigns in the Chemistry Department are several endeavors to harness the power of machine learning, biophysical simulations, and quantum mechanical theory to inform drug design and discovery.

  • High-throughput virtual screening (HTVS) approaches

  • Protein-ligand docking & molecular dynamic simulations

  • Machine learning platform (Downing-Njoo) for drug discovery

  • Density functional theory (DFT) - informed reactivity analyses

brah1.png
azo8homo.png
Programming Console

Synthetic & Physical Organic Chemistry

Investigators: Clark, Njoo

The ability to build complex chemical structures from simpler building blocks has numerous applications in medicine, chemical biology, and natural product structural elucidation.

  • Methodology and reaction development for heterocycle synthesis

  • Total synthesis of bioactive natural products

  • Asymmetric catalysis & organometallics

  • Late-stage natural product derivatization

IMG-8432 (1).jpg

Analytical and Environmental Chemistry

Investigators: Patel, Yamamoto, Njoo

We live in a world full of molecules, and several of our chemists are investigating the role of chemical entities in our ever-changing environment. Here, we are also developing methodology on sophisticated chemical instrumentation for high-resolution detection and monitoring of molecular systems.

  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis of heavy metal pollution

  • Development of high-resolution mass spectrometry methods

  • Reaction monitoring by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)

IMG-8874.jpg
images (7).jpg

Biochemistry & Chemical Biology

Investigators: Renganathan, Yamamoto, Brah, Njoo

Several research campaigns in the chemistry department center around understanding the molecular basis of life - from understanding how pharmaceutically active small molecules affect human disease, to developing new ways to target proteins or biologics for application in medicine.

  • Development of mitosis-inhibiting small molecules

  • Chemical probes for optical readouts in enzyme kinetics

  • Antibody-drug conjugates and other biologics

  • Amyloidogenic protein diseases including Alzheimer's, etc.

images (2).jpg
Scientist in the Lab
 
 

Principal Scientists & Investigators

IMG-6401.jpg

Edward Njoo

Organic Chemistry, Chemical Biology, Physical Organic Chemistry, Organometallic Catalysis

Chairperson, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Physical Science

Edward is a PhD candidate at Stanford University. Edward's research students study the applications of organic and physical organic chemistry in the context of the synthesis of molecules that have relevance in biological and biomedical applications. This is accomplished through chemical synthesis, computational modeling, and chemical biology.  Our research interests include green methodology towards complex natural product synthesis, design and construction of colorimetric substrates, and small molecule therapeutics to target antibiotic resistant bacteria, HIV, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Scott Clark

Organic Chemistry, Chemical Biology

Scott graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a B.S. in Biochemistry with a focus on synthetic organic chemistry. While there, he studied under Dr. Jeremy McCallum, synthesizing a library of novel polyphenol analogs that inhibits harmful amylin oligomerization in the progression of type 2 diabetes. Research in the Clark group focuses on complex organic synthesis of bioactive small molecules, including natural products with complex diketopiperazine cores, and heterocyclic compounds with biomedical applications.

Suit 1.jpg

Harman Brah

Biochemistry & Chemical Biology

The Brah lab investigates protein-ligand interactions and behavior of biological macromolecules through both computational methods, including ligand-protein docking, density functional theory, and high-resolution molecular dynamics simulations. The research in the Brah group is focused on issues of modern relevance in medicine from the perspective of biochemistry. Current targets include DNA G-quadruplex assemblies and signal transduction pathways in cancer cells.

Calvin Leung

Quantum Mechanics and Applied Physics

Calvin Leung is pursuing a PhD in physics at MIT studying the phenomena of fast radio bursts: brief, intense flashes of radio-frequency light originating from outside the Milky Way. His past research interests have included quantum communication and searching for dark matter using atomic clocks. In addition, he was a vibration engineer working on the Falcon 9 at SpaceX. Students interested in joining his group should reach out to him.

gayathri.png

Gayathri Renganathan

Medicinal Chemistry, Biochemistry

Gayathri is an experienced medicinal biochemist interested in pushing forwards the frontiers of molecular medicine. She received her M.Pharm in Pharmaceutical Analysis from Anna University and has several years of experience as a lecturer, and in quality control and in inorganic/analytical biochemistry. The Renganathan research group applies small molecule phytochemistry in a robust drug discovery platform towards understanding the molecular mechanisms of human disease. Additionally, the group uses a variety of biophysical computational tools to understand the interaction of small molecules with their protein targets.

AkiraY.jpg

Akira Yamamoto

Materials Science, Biomaterials Engineering

Akira is a graduate (M.Sc., B.Sc.) of Shinsyu University in Japan with degrees in Materials Engineering and Chemistry. Prior to coming to ASDRP, Mr. Yamamoto served as the director of Materials Science & Engineering at BioPharmX, and is the co-author on numerous publications on work in biomaterials engineering. The Yamamoto group at ASDRP performs research in developing new biocompatible materials with biomedical applications.

Nilai.jpg

Nilai Patel

Physical Chemistry, Electrochemistry, Materials Science

Nilai Patel is materials scientist at MicroCor, Inc. and has extensive research experience in applications of electrochemistry. The Patel group performs research in the area of physical and inorganic chemistry, using spectroscopy and electrochemical methods to characterize and engineer materials that have unique properties towards applications in catalysis, electronics, and nanotechnology.

Facilities & Instrumentation

 

The Chemistry Department at ASDRP operates over four dozen state-of-the-art research grade instruments with spectroscopic and analytical capabilities competitive with university and industry R&D laboratories. These include two cutting-edge multinuclear nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers, two mass spectrometers (LC-MS and GC-MS), two high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) instruments, a Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectrometer, inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), multi-angle light scattering (MALS), six UV-visible spectrophotometers, a potentiostat, and many more. 

Nanalysis NMReady 60 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectrometer

Our NMR spectrometers are used for characterization of small molecules. Our instruments are the only NMR spectrometers dedicated for use by high school researchers, and are both outfitted with multinuclear (1H/13C/19F/31P) capabilities along with both 1D and 2D homonuclear and heteronuclear experiments (COSY, JRES, HSQC, HMBC, NOESY, APT, BIRD, DEPT)

Perkin Elmer Lambda 11 UV-visible spectrophotometer

ASDRP operates six research grade UV-vis spectrophotometers; this one is capable of high-resolution absorbance measurements, time-resolved kinetics, and stray wavelength precision down to a tenth of a nanometer.

Rudolph Instruments Optical Polarimeter

One of our two polarimeters, this instrument is capable of measuring optical rotation of plane-polarized light by chiral compounds. Our chemists and biochemists use this to study chirality in macromolecular structure and enantiopure small molecules.

Rotary Evaporators - a.k.a. "Rotavap"

Rotary evaporators are used by chemists in the gentle removal of volatile solvents under reduced pressure in the purification process of small molecules. Our chemistry laboratory has four rotary evaportators (Buchi) equipped with two-stage rotary vacuum pumps.

Thermo Labsystems Multiskan MS Plate Reader

One of three 96-well plate readers, this instrument is designed to provide rapid screening of colorimetric optical reporters, allowing our scientists to probe hundreds of conditions for biological activity in just minutes. 

BioTek MicroQuant Fluorescence Plate Reader

Our MicroQuant instrument is capable of both fluorescence and absorbance experiments, enabling the rapid collection of large amounts of spectroscopic data for high-throughput screening of biomolecules.

Analogix IntelliFlash 280 Automated Chromatography

Our IntelliFlash system is used for purification of compounds out of complex reaction mixtures. It uses disposable silica gel normal phase or reverse phase chromatography columns with a built-in UV detector to track elution of UV-active compounds.

Hoefer Scientific DNA Fluorometer

Our Hoefer florometer is built to measure extremely low concentrations of DNA by using a UV lamp to track fluoresence of DNA nucleotide bases. This is useful for biochemists seeking to quantify DNA concentration.

Dynex Opsys MR Microplate Reader

Our Opsys MR microplate reader is built in with functions for biochemical quantification and for high-throughput screening of fluorescent optical reporters. 

Laminar Flow Hoods & Tissue culture / cell culture space

Our biosciences lab has two laminar flow hoods, which are designed to maintain a sterile environment and keep contaminants out of cell cultures and cell lines. 

Thermo Electron Spectronic Genesys 5 UV-visible spectrophotometer

Our Thermo Spectronic Genesys 5 spectrophotometer comes equipped with a wide range of detection capabilities and can be used for kinetic monitoring for reactions. 

Thermo Scientific Nicolet iS5 Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) Spectrometer

The FT-IR spectrometer is equipped with an iD5 attenuated total reflectance (ATR) sample assembly, and is used for vibrational spectroscopy to characterize molecules and materials. IR spectra capture bond vibrational modes.

BioRad SmartSpec 3000 UV-visible spectrophotometer

ASDRP operates six research-grade UV-vis spectrophotometers. Our BioRad instrument is capable of time-resolved kinetics, full differential scan analysis, and quantification of biological macromolecules such as DNA and protein

High-Throughput Computing Server & Cluster

Our two servers are industry grade Dell Poweredge machines equipped with 48 core Xeon processors, 64 GB RAM, and 10 TB memory. This is used for powerful computing capabilities, ranging from quantum mechanical calculations to time-resolved molecular dynamics simlulations.

Millipore MilliQ Ultra High Purity Water System

Sometimes, de-ionized water simply isn't good enough! Our MilliQ Water purification systems makes sure that the aqueous environments our biochemists use to study proteins and nucleic acids meet the highest level of quality control, with filters to remove even trace impurities.

Synthesis Fume Hoods

Chemistry sometimes generates fumes and volatiles that are best to keep away from our student scientists. We have six heavy-duty synthesis fume hoods which duct air away from experimentalists. Three are equipped with carbon filters to remove volatiles from the air.

Princeton Applied Research Scanning Potentiostat

Our research-grade PAR potentiostat is used for cyclic voltammetry experiments, and allows chemists and physicists to probe redox states of particles in solution and to characterize metal ion oxidation states.

3-dimensional Laser Cutter

Our physicists and engineers use our industry-grade laser cutter to build custom-shaped and custom-sized components out of any material imaginable. The instrument uses a high-power laser to carve contours out of material.

Pelton & Crane High-Pressure Autoclave

To create super-sterile equipment and solutions, our biologists and biochemists use this autoclave to superheat solutions to temperatures upwards of 300 degrees and pressures up to 3,100 torr. 

Bausch and Lomb Melting Point Apparatus

Melting point is often used to determine the purity of a substance, and our melting point apparatus is used by extraction chemists to determine if there are impurities in their material.

721 UV-visible-near infrared spectrophotometers

We have two twin instruments that are capable of measuring single wavelength absorbances at a range from 350 nm to 1150 nm. This can be used to monitor reaction kinetics, or to obtain specific absorbances along an absorption profile of a substance. 

Thermo LC Packings Ultimate High Performace Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

High-performace liquid chromatography (HPLC) is a method for the separation and purification of small molecules from a mixture. Our HPLC is outfitted for even the most challenging separations and has a built-in UV detector.