Research Areas and PhD Mentors

The heart of graduate education is research. The relatively small size of research groups in our department promotes enhanced interactions between the faculty mentors and the students, ensuring a first-rate education in impactful research areas. The Department of Chemistry at Georgetown University is equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation to facilitate the wide array of research carried out by students, faculty, and staff. The current areas of research are listed below with faculty contact information and links to the faculty websites.

PhD Mentors

Esther Braselmann, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor,

Research Interests: Our group investigates RNA molecules in living cells. RNA localization within each cell is closely linked with proper cell function. Disease states disrupt RNA dynamics, including infection with intracellular pathogens. We use spectroscopic and biophysical techniques to develop RNA labeling strategies and fluorescence microscopy to label and track RNAs live.

Keywords: Fluorescence microscopy (widefield, confocal, lifetime), major biochemical techniques (cloning, protein characterization), fluorescence spectroscopy, bacterial and mammalian cell culture.

Angel C. de Dios, Associate Professor,

Research Interests: Our work centers around the application of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and an initio calculations to systems of biological interest. Recently, we have been focusing on how various antimalarial drugs work.

Keywords: NMR spectroscopy, molecular dynamics simulation, ab initio computations

Nagarjuna Gavvalapalli, Associate Professor,

Research Interests: Design and synthesis of organic materials/polymers to answer fundamental scientific questions that help to solve our energy and sustainability challenges.

Keywords: Solar cells, thermoelectrics, photonics, stretchable electronics, self-healing polymers,  reversible polymer networks, self-assembly, conjugated polymers, microporous polymers, organic microcrystals, metal-mediated condensation polymerization, free-radical, emulsion and interfacial polymerization, air-free reactions, multi-step synthesis

Jong-in Hahm, Professor,

Research Interests: Fundamental research on nanomaterials and nanoscience; Synthesis of inorganic nanotubes, nanowires, and nanorods; Self-assembly based control of nanomaterials; Surface and interface behaviors of soft material (proteins and polymers); Nanobiomedical and nanoelectronic applications; Optoelectronic and environmental applications.

Keywords: Super-high resolution microscopy, Single nanomaterial spectroscopy, All-optical modality tools, Standard biomedical characterization techniques, Optoelectronic device fabrication, Polymer-based biomaterial fabrication, Nano and microfabrication

K. Travis Holman, Professor,

Research Interests: Molecular materials, microporous organic or metal-organic materials, porous molecular solids, novel sorbents, chemical separations, crystal polymorphism, and form behavior, crystallography and X-ray diffraction; molecular recognition chemistry, encapsulation chemistry, binding of gases and small molecules, synthetic chemistry, transition metal organometallic chemistry

Toshiko Ichiye, Professor, William G. McGowan Chair in Chemistry,

Research Interests: Our group is interested in the effects of pressure and temperature on enzymes and how extremophiles protect their enzymes against extremes of pressure and temperature. In particular, we are interested in both changes in protein sequence as well as in cosolutes in the intracellular environment.

Keywords: molecular dynamics computer simulations; supported by experimental biophysical characterization

Kaveh Jorabchi, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor,

Research Interests: Fundamental and applied research in the generation, characterization, and reactions of gas phase ions to address chemical measurement challenges in biological, environmental, food, and forensic sciences

Keywords: mass spectrometry, ion mobility spectrometry, chromatography, computational chemistry, data science, sample preparation, scientific instrument design, and control

Miklos Kertesz, Professor,

Research Interests: Applied quantum chemistry for conducting organic materials, conjugated polymers, theory of nanotube and conjugated polymer actuation, novel forms of aromatic π-electron conjugation, π-stacking interactions, structure-spectrum relationships. Development of methods for the calculation of the electronic structures of polymers, and vibrational spectroscopy of polymers. Unusual chemical bonds.

Karah Knope, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor,

Research Interests: Our group is interested in the synthesis and structural chemistry of inorganic materials that address fundamental challenges in the areas of energy, the environment, and sustainability.

Keywords: Inorganic, synthesis, Structural Chemistry, luminescence, bismuth, f-block chemistry, nuclear, heavy element chemistry

Rodrigo Maillard, Associate Professor,

Research Interests: Our group is interested in linking physical and chemical properties of proteins based on conformation, dynamic motions, and stability to functional processes such as catalysis, binding cooperativity, and allostery.

Keywords: optical tweezers, fluorescence, circular dichroism, isothermal titration calorimetry, computational biology

Steven Metallo, Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies,

Research Interests: intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), their interactions and targeting with small molecules and their self-association in liquid-liquid phase separated systems, the origins of small-molecule binding site specificity in IDPs, and the chemical interactions that control both small molecule binding and phase separation

Paul D. Roepe, Professor,

Research Interests: The Roepe laboratory elucidates mechanisms of drug resistance, and designs, synthesizes, and tests new drugs based on those data. Current projects include the identification, cloning, and expression of genes and proteins associated with antimalarial drug resistance, the development of chemical biology approaches for studying malarial parasite protein function, and the design, synthesis, and testing of novel antimalarial drugs, drug probes, and drug combinations.

Keywords: molecular and cell biological, immunological and biochemical techniques, synthetic chemistry, and biophysical techniques such as spinning disk laser confocal microscopy

Sarah Stoll, Professor, Sonneborn Chair of Interdisciplinary Collaborations,

Research Interests: In broad terms, our group studies magnetic nanoparticles.  In one project we have looked at magnetic semiconductor nanoparticles leading to fundamental synthesis and properties of rare-earth chalcogenides.  The second project is focused on developing cluster-nanocarriers as MRI contrast agents in collaboration with the medical center.

Jennifer A. Swift, Professor, Department Chair,

Research Interests: Research is directed at the synthesis, characterization, and phase transformations of crystalline organic materials. Studies focus on pharmaceutical hydrates and polymorphs, and biomineralization pathways of heterocycles associated with diseases such as gout and kidney stone formation and nitrogen regulation in animal species.

YuYe Tong, Professor,

Richard G. Weiss, Professor,

Research Interests: The development and application of new molecular and polymer gels, ionic liquids, and ionic liquid crystals for various purposes, including in food science, oil spill recovery, and, especially, the conservation of objects of cultural heritage. Investigations of photochemical, photophysical, and thermal reactions of molecules in anisotropic environments.

Keywords: soft matter, rheology, thixotropy, fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, single photon counting, differential scanning calorimetry, small angle neutron scattering, kinetics

Christian Wolf, Professor,

Research Interests: We are interested in synthetic methodology development, in particular asymmetric catalysis, environmentally benign procedures and C-F bond functionalization, stereochemistry, chiral compound analysis, optical sensing, and drug discovery/medicinal chemistry. Our research is very interdisciplinary, involves the use of many different spectroscopic and other techniques, and frequently includes academic and industrial collaborators.

Keywords: Organic synthesis, catalysis, reaction mechanisms, chirality, organofluorines, cross-coupling chemistry, chemometrics, molecular sensors, chiral recognition, biomarkers, anticancer drugs, treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases