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CAMP June Newsletter: Page 6

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Professor Maria Gracheva

 Professor Maria Gracheva Receives NSF EAGER Award to Develop Nanoporous Semiconductor Membranes for Tunable Filtering of Biomolecules

Professor Maria Gracheva (of Clarkson University’s Department of Physics) received an NSF EAGER award to develop a comprehensive multi-scale model to demonstrate the feasibility of using nanoporous semiconductor membranes for tunable ion and protein separation and filtering. The EAGER funding (of the NSF) supports exploratory work in its early stages on untested, but potentially transformative, research ideas and approaches.

Tiny holes in cellular membranes - nanometer diameter pores - are used in biological cells for recognition and transport of ions and molecules among compartments within the cell, as well as between the extracellular environment and the cell itself. In recent years, there has been great interest in harnessing the power of artificial nanopores for single molecule manipulation and characterization. While biological nanopores offer high biological compatibility with studied molecules, man-made nanopores are more stable and, in some instances, allow for tunable control over the nanopore environment and functioning. A major application of nanopores lays in sensing and possible ultra-fast sequencing of DNA molecules.

While electrically tunable layered semiconductor membranes have not yet been tested for separation and filtering of ions and biomolecules, nanoporous polycrystalline semiconductor membranes have already been used experimentally to separate biomolecules based on charge and size. The electrical tunability of semiconductors is very well known and utilized everywhere from everyday electronic devices to scientific labs. Also electrically biased metal electrodes can affect the permeability of pores. The combination of these factors makes it very likely that Professor Gracheva’s proposed tunable layered semiconductor membranes could be successfully used for the separation and filtering of ions and biomolecules by size, charge, and mass.

The computational approach, developed as a result of Professor Gracheva’s work, will be further utilized for simulation of the electrically tunable membranes and electrolyte solutions with a coarse-grained Brownian dynamics modeling of a biomolecule immersed in the solution. This project will also stimulate future research on the effect of the membrane electrostatic potential on the dynamics of ions and biomolecules in nanopores, with the main goal to demonstrate tunable control over the membrane properties for applications to protein and biomolecule separation, concentration, and filtering.




Dr. Sokolov

Professor Igor Sokolov

Chemical & Engineering News Features Professor Sokolov’s Work about Cancer Detection 

An article in the May 23 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, a major news journal of the American Chemical Society, features work on cervical cancer cells done by Clarkson University Physics Professor Igor Sokolov’s group with collaboration by Biology Professor Craig D. Woodworth.

The article, “Using the Force on Cancer,” which was written by Associate Editor Lauren K. Wolf, analyzes the current state of research of the mechanics of tumor cells with atomic force microscopy and its possible use as a new non-traditional diagnostic tool of cancer.

Sokolov’s group, along with a number of other research groups, is trying to find unknown features of cancer cells that might be used for the detection and a better understanding of cancer.

“We focus on the study of mechanical properties of the cell, which we study by means of atomic force microscopy (AFM), one of the major instruments responsible for the emergence of nanotechnology," says Sokolov.  His group found that the surface mechanical properties of cancerous and normal cells are significantly different.

The team consists of Sokolov, who has appointments in Physics and Chemistry and Biomolecular Science; Woodworth, a cervical cancer expert; Maxim Dokukin, a physics postdoctoral fellow; and Ravi M. Gaikwad and Nataliaa Guz, physics graduate students.

The other members of Sokolov’s group, Shajesh Palantavida (physics postdoctoral fellow), and Shyuzhene Li (physics graduate student), work on biosensors, self-assembly of particles, and the study of skin aging.

The research was done within the Nanoengineering and Biotechnology Laboratories Center (NABLAB) led by Sokolov, a unit established to promote cross-disciplinary collaborations within the University.