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BS James Madison University
PhD University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Craig is interested in studying a short protein molecule called LL37which has been implicated in the onset of certain autoimmune diseases. LL37 can bind to DNA and fold DNA into small packages, thus allowing DNA to enter cells by facilitating their movement across the cell membrane. A 2007 report by Lande et al.[1] in Nature suggests that LL37-mediated uptake of DNA by certain immune cells may incite an immune response to self-DNA, leading to the production of anti-DNA antibodies that are characteristic of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and psoriasis.

Although much is known about the structure and function of LL37, the details of the binding interaction between LL37 and DNA remain to be elucidated. How does LL37 fold DNA into small packages and allow DNA to cross the cell membrane? Does LL37 recognize specific DNA sequences? How many LL37 molecules bind to DNA at one time? Dr. Craig proposes to investigate these questions by performing specific biophysical chemistry studies that are well-suited to undergraduate research. For instance, a decrease in the strength of binding of LL37 to DNA as the salt concentration is increased indicates a lack of sequence-specificity.


BA Hampshire College
PhD Oregon State University
Postdoctoral Duke University

Dr. Ruiz-Haas’ research interests are focused around the areas of analytical and environmental chemistry, with a focus on the chemical analysis of environmental samples, with an emphasis on analysis of hormones and endocrine disrupting compounds in the Shenandoah River, which is the main tributary to the Potomac River. Dr. Ruiz-Haas was recently awarded a grant from NIH to fund this research for the next two years

In addition, his research is centered interested in the development of analytical techniques and devices for low cost and/or field testing, as well as monitoring of redox transformations of organic pollutants in the environment by microorganisms. His students are also using UV light and ozone to destroy or remove traces of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in drinking and waste waters.

KARL ZACHARY WP-Zachary-09_10-W

BS The University of Texas
PhD The University of Florida

Dr. Zachary’s research interests involve the experimental and theoretical analysis of systems exhibiting order that extends beyond a single molecule. These include molecular liquids under conditions where long range order is important and supramolecular complexes. Representative projects include:

Molecular Dynamics of Clathrate Hydrate Formation
A wide variety of chemical species interact with water at elevated pressures to form a class of solids known as clathrate hydrates.  These form as the hydrogen bond network in liquid water opens to form polyhedra encaging a small guest molecule. The current importance of clathrate hydrates lies primarily in the problems they pose for the oil and gas industry; in the future they may represent an important source of energy. They are interesting from a theoretical standpoint, since they posses two distinct kinds of chemical interactions: the ice-like water-water interactions of the hydrogen-bonded lattice framework, and water-guest interactions which are due almost entirely to van der Waals interactions. In addition, the study of their formation dynamics may illuminate similar processes involving molecules of biological significance. Finally, such studies may help to resolve existing controversies over the dynamics of the hydrogen bond network in liquid water itself. The research in my group involves molecular dynamics computer simulations of clathrate-forming systems, analyzing the dynamical data for evidence of the emergence of long range order and the predicted effect on laser light scattering, then comparing the results to experimental data.

Host-Guest Complexes of Cucurbit[n]uril
The cucurbit[n]uril family of macrocycles have garnered increasing attention for their selectivity and effectiveness in forming host-guest complexes that may be the basis for controlled drug delivery or molecule-sized devices. Research in my group has focused on elucidating the molecular details of the competing intermolecular forces responsible for the formation of such complexes.

Charge-Transfer Complexes of Fullerene and substituted Calix[n]arenes
The Calix[n]arene family of macrocycles have been exploited for uses as varied as radioactive waste remediation,enzyme mimetics, and ion sensitive sensors. Our interest is in their potential use in photovoltaic applications. We have found experimental evidence that derivatives of calix[4]arene form charge-transfer complexes with fullerenes permitting modulation of electron transfer from donor to acceptor. Our theoretical and computation work seeks to describe this phenomenon in quantum mechanical terms.