Faculty Research

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UW-Platteville chemistry faculty have research interests that include renewable energy, forensic science, biochemistry, and nanotechnology. Click on professors' names or scroll down to view more information.

Professor Research Areas Current Topics
Annamalai synthetic organic nanomaterials, green chemistry
Buboltz biochemistry, chemical engineering drug delivery, pervaporation
Chattopadhyay materials science nanocrystalline silcon, layered films
Cornett forensic, analytical fire debris analysis, fingerprints
Hamilton nanotechnology nanomaterials, polymers, batteries
Li synthetic organic molecular shape and activity
Mendis biochemistry gene expression, cell signaling
Steiner analytical, environmental capillary electrophoresis
Wu analytical, forensic electrochemical sensors
Zauche inorganic, renewable energy anaerobic digestion

Dr. Raja Annamalai, Assistant Professor, Organic and Green Chemistry

Research in my group centers around the development of new methods to synthesize organic molecules and in the use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to study hydrogen bonding interactions between organic molecules.  To that extent, I currently have four projects ongoing in my group:

  1. Use of NMR as a secondary method to determine the surface area of different nanomaterials. The design of materials and molecules on the nano scale has led to a number of exciting discoveries.  One aspect of nanomaterials that lends them their unique properties is the fact that they have a high surface area compared to their size.  As such, a simple method to determine their surface area would be beneficial.  We are exploring the use of NMR for this purpose.
  2. Quantifying hydrogen bonding between organic molecules via NMR. Hydrogen bonding is of major importance both in biology and chemistry.  As such, we are exploring the strength of hydrogen bonds between various types of molecules.
  3. Development of green organic chemistry lab experiments. - In an effort to lower our environmental impact by decreasing waste and to make our organic labs safer by eliminating potentially hazardous materials, we are developing labs that are greener while also being highly instructional. 
  4. Development of green methods for organic transformation. Many organic reactions require the use of hazardous and expensive organic reagents.  We explore methods by which safer and cheaper means can be used to carry out the same useful transformations.

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Dr. Jeff Buboltz, Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering

I am currently pursuing three lines of research with my students. First, we are trying to develop selectively permeable membranes based on pure fluorocarbon formulations. The long-term goal here is the “pervaporative” separation of butanol from water, which is the most promising strategy for making this biofuel an economically viable alternative to gasoline. Second, we are evaluating a mathematical model describing the performance of a laboratory scale solvent-stripping device used in the preparation of R&D colloids. The purpose here is to be able to predict and optimize device performance for any arbitrary solvent scheme. Third, we are exploring the potential of biodegradable PLGA (poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanospheres as vehicles for controlled-release drug delivery.

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Dr. Soma Chattopadhyay, Assistant Professor, Material Science and Nanotechnology

By combining highly porous micro- and nanocrystalline silicon with polymers, I am interested in creating composites that would impart desirable functionalities to a drug delivery system or a sensor. In addition, I am also interested in creating three-dimensional architectures from layer-by-layer assembly of thin polymer films for applications ranging from light-emitting devices to medical coatings. Material characterization of these functional materials will provide a thorough understanding of the material behavior under specific conditions. Such knowledge is invaluable for transitioning research concepts into actual working devices.

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Dr. Chuck Cornett, Professor, Forensic Chemistry

My students and I are currently investigating the roles of fast gas chromatography (Fast GC) and hydrogen carrier gas in improving drug identification.  We are also working to improve a latent fingerprint lifting/preservation polymer that provides positive prints in a stable chemical matrix.

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Dr. Jim Hamilton, Professor, Nanotechnology

Research in our group and in the nanocenter involves students, scientists, and engineers working in teams on a variety of projects ranging from lithium ion battery and supercapacitor electrode optimization and testing to laser and Terahertz Raman Spectroscopy, photonics and characterization of nanomaterial composites, coatings and thermodynamics using instruments we build and maintain.

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Dr. June Li, Professor, Organic Chemistry

It is well-recognized that many 1-arylpiperazines are serotonin agonists, which means they bind to the same binding sites as serotonin and mimic its biological and pharmacological activities.  Therefore, simple 1-arylpiperazines represent a structure class that may provide valuable information for finding new serotonin agonists which play an important role in the design of new antidepressants drugs.  The goal of my first research project is to use  NMR techniques to investigate electronic and steric effects on the conformations of 1-arylpiperazines in solution.  A series of 1-arylpiperazines with systematic variation of aryl substituents will be synthesized and investigated by various NMR techniques.

In my second research project, we intend to investigate structure-activity relationships in the cleavage of DNA by arenediazonium salts.  A series of arenediazonium salts with various kinds of substituents, different in electronic nature and hydrophilic nature, on the phenyl ring will be synthesized and their activities for DNA  cleavage will be investigated.  A more efficient  DNA cleaving reagent may be obtained through this research.

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Dr. Chanaka Mendis, Professor, Cell Signaling and Gene Expression

Cell death markers in SEB induced human PBMC module:

We have made significant contributions to properly identifying and confirming the effect of a number of signal components as possible signal blockers on the gene expression pattern of apoptosis related genes in human PBMCs induced by Staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB).

Gene expression profile of Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B and Lipopolysaccaride induced human PBMCs:

Our laboratory has pursued a molecular approach in comparing the host’s response to two similar toxins (SEB and LPS) on a genetic level, by identifying a set of genes to facilitate the differentiation in exposure of SEB from LPS. The multiple conformational analyses utilized in this study will not only allow us to better understand the various mechanisms and pathways induced by both SEB and LPS.

Targeting and evaluating pathway inter-connectors terminate/block complex signaling activities:

Our goal in this area of study can be broadly defined as using molecular and cellular approaches to characterize molecular signaling pathways that control these fundamental biological changes using human PBMCs as a prototype cellular module. We are currently exploring how/where and extent of interactions (namely JNK, p38, 5-LO and MAPK)of similar components, utilizing SEB/LPS induced human PBMCs.

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Dr. Scott Sandholm, Lecturer, Atmospheric Chemistry

Environmental exposure of heavy metals in nonmigratory birds: 

We are measuring the amount of Lead (Pb), Silver (Ag), and Cadmium (Cd) in nonmigratory birds like the pheasant, grouse, quail, and in particular the wild turkey.  We currently have samples from South Dakota, Minnesota, as well as Wisconsin.  As most birds use a gizzard to grind seeds, insects, and whatever else they might eat and therefore they require gravel in their gizzard as part of this digestion process.  As a side effect of picking up gravel how much heavy metal are they also ingesting?  What kind of exposure to heavy metals are the samplers of the environment exposed to?  The lead, silver, and cadmium accumulate over the life of the bird in their bones and over a year in their feathers.

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Dr. Steven Steiner, Professor, Environmental Chemistry

Current research projects are directed toward fundamental understanding of separations using capillary electrophoresis (CE) for separating proteins, DNA fragments, inorganic and organic cation and anion mixtures. In addition, a new area of research has recently been undertaken involving spectroscopic analysis of solid phase extraction membranes for quantitative determinations of inorganic ions and organic compounds in drinking water. I also have recently developed a series of laboratory video presentations that helps students with laboratory techniques and procedures for Chemistry 1450, Chemistry for Engineers.

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Dr. Joseph Wu, Asst. Professor, Portable Sensors

My current projects are focusing on developing screen-printed electrochemical sensors for industrial, environmental, and forensic applications. I am also interested in using nanomaterials such as nanorods, nanotubes, and nanoparticles to enhance the performance of these sensors. My research group uses chromatographic methods such as GC and HPLC to compare the results from our sensors.

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Dr. Tim Zauche, Professor, Renewable Energy

We are developing protocols for determining the biomethane potential of substrates (food waste or bioplastics) when anaerobically digested with dairy manure. This lab will also support the anaerobic digester being installed at the Pioneer Farm.

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