Faculty Research Profiles

Simone Aloisio, Ph.D. – Analytical Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry

Dr Aloisio's current projects include students measuring ground level ozone in air using portable spectrometers. The goal of this project is to set up several monitoring stations with the ability to measure pollution in air at several locations. Another project involves students measuring heavy metal concentrations in fish samples. This is a collaborative project in progress to determine the sustainability level of seafood. Measurement of pesticide in soil and other samples has also been a focus of undergraduate student research.

Ahmed Awad, Ph.D. – Organic Synthesis, Nucleic Acid Chemistry

Dr. Awad's research area is in the interface between chemistry and biology. He is interested in investigation of novel drugs for the treatment of cancer. This includes chemical synthesis of modified nucleosides, nucleotides and nucleic acids (called therapeutic nucleic acids). The applications of these synthetic molecules in biological systems, as anticancer agents, constitute the major part of my research. I am interested in Pancreatic and Prostate cancer. Another branch of my research is focused on real-time measuring of the gene expression in case of cancer and therefore bringing novel methods to detect cancer in an early state, and so cancer can be treated before it develops.

Blake Gillespie, Ph.D. – Biochemistry, Protein Structure and Dynamics

Dr. Gillespie's research goals stem from an abiding interest in the structure of living organisms at their smallest scale, and of proteins in particular. Molecular architecture and structure determine the chemical behavior of proteins. This chemistry in turn governs the activity of molecules. All organisms require active molecules to carry out every aspect of living, and damaged or non-functional proteins are often at the root of disease. Therefore, biomolecular structure is in a very real sense the fundamental language for understanding all life.

In particular, Dr. Gillespie uses a variety of biophysical tools to characterize protein structure and dynamics. These range from spectroscopic methods such as circular dichroism and fluorescence to analytical techniques like differential scanning calorimetry and ultracentrifugation to tools for high-resolution structural studies such as NMR and X-ray crystallography. Using small proteins and simplified model systems, he addresses basic problems in biophysics, such as the physical basis of protein thermostability, the role of natural selection in determining protein folding kinetics, and the hydrodynamic properties of protein unfolded states.

Philip D. Hampton, Ph.D. – Organic Synthesis, Green Chemistry

Dr. Hampton's research focuses on organic synthesis, specifically the synthesis of water-soluble analogues of curcumin as potential inhibitors of beta-secretase, an enzyme involved in Alzheimer’s disease, and inhibitors of tubulin polymerization. In addition to this project, he engages student researchers in developing new laboratory experiments for the organic chemistry teaching labs that minimize chemical waste and utilize environmentally benign (“green”) reagents and sustainable processes. One of his other research interests involves making CI instrumentation remotely operable by regional community colleges and private universities, with the goal of enhancing their teaching of chemistry courses.

Brittnee Veldman, Ph.D. – Physical Chemistry, Materials Chemistry

Dr. Veldman's research is in the field of materials chemistry which looks at projects that blend chemistry, physics and engineering. The goal of her research is to build lighter and more energy efficient electronics by optimizing the materials from which they are made. By understanding how the structure and interactions of molecules change the physical properties of a material, it is possible to design better materials for a given application.

Currently, students in her group are working to synthesize high-dielectric, nano-composite materials for use in flexible transistors. They also design, build, and program lab equipment from Arduino and Lego; and develop new tools and techniques to measure and model the capacitance of the nano-composite films.