Schmidt-Rohr to join Chemistry faculty

Klaus Schmidt-RohrThe Department of Chemistry is looking forward to welcoming Klaus Schmidt-Rohr to the faculty this July.

Prof. Schmidt-Rohr is a highly regarded spectroscopist, with a background in both physics and chemistry.  His research is focused on materials and his recent studies have revised our understanding of the structure of Nafion membranes (the proton selective membranes on which most hydrogen fuel cells now depend), the surfaces of nanodiamonds, the molecular bases of bone strength, and the molecular composition of biochar.  Schmidt-Rohr approaches materials primarily through solid state NMR, with a distinctive emphasis on skillful spectral editing.  He has also complimented these experiments with innovative analyses of small angle x-ray scattering data.

Prof. Schmidt-Rohr received his Ph.D. from the University of Mainz in Germany and continued at the Max-Planck Institute in Mainz as a staff scientist. Following postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley, as a fellow of the BASF AG and the German National Science Foundation, he took a faculty position in the Department of Polymer Science & Engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  More recently, he has been a Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State University.

Prof. Schmidt-Rohr’s pioneering work has been recognized with prestigious awards, including the Rudolph-Kaiser Prize from the German Physical Society, a Beckman Young Investigator Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, the John H. Dillon Medal of the Polymer Division of the American Physical Society, and fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in the American Physical Society.

Casey Wade to join Chemistry faculty

The Chemistry department is happy to announce that Dr. Casey Wade has accepted an offer for an Assistant Professor position in the Chemistry Department.

caseywadeCasey’s research interests are centered in synthetic inorganic chemistry, with a particular focus on inorganic/organic hybrid materials.  Casey’s appointment complements the department’s current strengths in the area of inorganic chemistry, and brings a new area of expertise to Brandeis in the area of materials synthesis, characterization and applications.  Casey graduated with a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Texas A&M University in 2011, where his doctoral work focused on the synergy between main group and transition metal elements in well-defined complexes designed for applications in anion binding.  He has been pursuing postdoctoral studies at MIT in the area of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). Casey’s research aims at Brandeis will focus on new materials for metal separations and catalyst design, including the incorporation of discreet catalytic centers into porous materials.

Casey will be starting his position at Brandeis in July, and is actively recruiting new graduate student and undergraduate researchers into his lab for the fall semester.

Why nanorods assemble

In a recent paper in Phys. Rev. E, Brandeis postdoc Yasheng Yang and Assistant Professor of Physics Michael Hagan developed a theory to describe the assembly behavior of colloidal rods (i.e. nanorods) in the presence of inert polymer (which induces attractions between the nanorods). The nanorods assemble into several kinds of structures, including colloidal membranes, which  are two dimensional membrane-like structures composed of a one rod-length thick monolayer of aligned rods.  The theory shows that colloidal membranes are stabilized against stacking on top of each other by an entropic force arising from protrusions of rods from the membranes and that there is a critical aspect ratio (rod length/rod diameter) below which membranes are never stable. Understanding the forces that stabilize colloidal membranes is of practical importance since these structures could enable the manufacture of inexpensive and easily scalable optoelectronic devices. This work was part of a collaboration with the experimental lab of Zvonimir Dogic at Brandeis, where colloidal membranes are developed and studied.

Yang YS, Hagan MF. Theoretical calculation of the phase behavior of colloidal membranes. Phys Rev E. 2011;84(5).

Separating proteins and manipulating live cells using magnetic nanoparticles

Brandeis grad students Yue Pan (Chemistry) and Marcus Long (Biochemistry), together with Professors Lizbeth Hedstrom and Bing Xu, have synthesized novel 6 nm diameter magnetic nanobeads (comparable in size to a globular protein) and used them to separate specific proteins from a cell lysate and manipulate live cells. This work has just appeared online in the journal Chemical Science.

Selectively binding glutathione-S-transferase fusion proteins using
glutathione-decorated iron oxide nanoparticles and down-stream applications

These small, magnetic beads have numerous advantages over larger traditional glutathione-modified beads, including rapid purification, and ultra low non-specific binding. Importantly, both the purified GST and the protein of interest (POI) preserve their innate properties. They also demonstrate that functionalized iron oxide nanoparticles can be used to manipulate live cells. This work  establishes design principles for decorating magnetic nanoparticles that will ultimately should lead to a general and comprehensive platform for studying biological interactions and biological systems using a magnetic force.

Barry and Dogic receive 2010 Cozzarelli Prize

Physics graduate student Edward Barry and Professor Zvonimir Dogic have been selected to receive the 2010 Cozzarelli Prize in Engineering and Applied Sciences from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) for their work entitled “Entropy driven self-assembly of non-amphiphilic colloidal membranes.”

The work of Barry and Dogic was selected for exploring a novel pathway for the self-assembly of 2D fluid-like surfaces or monolayer membranes from non-amphiphilic molecules. Amphiphilic molecules consist of immiscible components, such as a hydrophobic tail and a hydrophilic head, which are irreversibly linked to each other, thus frustrating their bulk separation. When added to water, these molecules self-assemble into a variety of structures in order to satisfy competing affinities for the solvent. One particular structure, a bilayer membrane, which is a thin flexible sheet with remarkable mechanical and chemical properties, plays an essential role in biology, physics, and material science. Over the past decade the paramount example of conventional amphiphilic self-assembly has inspired the synthesis of numerous amphiphilic-type building blocks for studies of membrane self-assembly including various block-copolymers, heterogeneous nanorods, and hybrid protein-polymer complexes. Underlying all of these studies is the belief that amphiphilic molecules are an essential requirement for membrane assembly.

Barry and Dogic, using a combination of theory and experiments, describe for the first time a set of design principles required for the assembly of non-amphiphilic membranes in which the constituent rod-like molecules are chemically homogeneous.  Using a simple mixture of filamentous bacteriophages and non-adsorbing polymer, they were able to assemble macroscopic membranes roughly 4-5 orders of magnitude larger than the constituent molecules themselves. Due to unique properties of their system, Barry and Dogic were able to characterize the physical behavior of the resulting non-amphiphilic membranes at all relevant length scales and provide an entropic mechanism that explains their stability. The importance of these results lies in their potential to establish a fundamentally different route toward solution based self-assembly of 2D materials.

Papers selected for the Cozzarelli Prize were chosen from more than 3,700 research articles published by PNAS in 2010 and represent the six broadly defined classes under which the National Academy of Sciences is organized. The award was established in 2005 and named the Cozzarelli Prize in 2007 to honor late PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli. The annual award acknowledges recently published papers that reflect scientific excellence and originality. The 2010 awards will be presented at the PNAS Editorial Board Meeting, and awardees are recognized at the awards ceremony, during the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting on May 1, 2011, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Nanomaterials in cells

From Bing Xu, one of the new faculty members in the Chemistry Department here at Brandeis, comes a new review on Applications of nanomaterials inside cells. Quantum dots, magnetic nanoparticles, nanowires, the works.

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