Chemistry Department Seminar: Tenure Track Candidate
Fri, October 27, 2023 • 3:30pm - 4:30pm (1h) • Anderson Hall 329
"Surface with a Purpose: Functionalized Interfaces in Complex Environments"
Chemistry in the real world is messy! Real world environments are often complex mixtures of different compounds, phases, and interfacial structures, making it difficult to easily connect molecular behavior with the macroscopic functionality of a new material. If we want to design the next generation of biomedical devices, however, we need to be certain that we fully understand how the molecules on the device are organized and how they behave under realistic operating conditions. In our research, we use self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) and surface-sensitive spectroscopy to probe these tricky interfaces and clarify which molecular-level variables matter.
SAMs are versatile interfaces formed from the spontaneous, organized adsorption of thiol-containing molecules onto a gold substrate; the exposed end of the SAM can be tailored with groups that change the properties of the interface (e.g. hydrophobicity, corrosion-resistance, surface potential). In my proposed research, we will use SAMs to combat challenges for three different systems: biomolecular sensors, petroleum recovery and refining, and nanofiltration. In addition to discussing the key details and experiments for each system, I will review results from our recent work investigating the adsorption of bovine serum albumin (BSA, a common blood protein) on mixed SAMs with varying thicknesses and fractions of hydrophilic and hydrophobic character. We find that despite carefully tuning the SAM composition, the protein is largely indifferent and a similar amount is adsorbed on all surfaces studied. Contrary to expectation, this suggests that the variables studied do not lead to precise control over surface properties under atmospheric conditions, likely because the fine details of composition are overshadowed by heterogeneity and disorder at the molecular level. These results provide critical evidence that more complex chemistry and environmental control are needed to create devices with truly tunable protein sensing.
*This seminar counts towards the chemistry major seminar attendance requirement.
Event Contact: Tami Little