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Research Interests

Low resource extraction and processing of biological samples using surface tension valves.

This Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded project (with David Wright in Chemistry and Ray Mernaugh in Biochemistry) is a sample collection, concentration and preparation component for integration with downstream detection components to form a general diagnostic platform suitable for low resource environments. This self-contained processing device captures targets of interest from complex biological matrices on the surface of a carrier bead which conveys the biomarker targets through sequential extraction solutions to concentrate them and reduce interferents of downstream biomarker detector performance. The device has advantages over existing extraction technologies, mainly it that it can be implemented to: (1) require little or no power, (2) be suitable for an unskilled user, (3) have rapid time-to-extraction, (4) be low cost, and (5) be adaptable to multiple downstream detection designs. To our knowledge there is no currently available point-of-care extraction device that has the same level of simplicity, convenience, low cost and ease-of-use.

Coffee Ring Stain Diagnostics for Malaria.

In collaboration with the Wright lab (Chemistry) the goal of this project is to develop a simple, low-cost diagnostic test for malaria infection suitable for locations that lack electricity, refrigeration and highly trained technicians. The idea is based on the phenomenon that causes coffee-ring stains on the kitchen counter: When a liquid like coffee that contains a suspension of fine particles evaporates from a flat surface, the particles tend to accumulate along the outer edge. The proposed malaria test consists of two liquids and specially treated glass slides. Liquid A is mixed with the blood sample. A drop of the mixture is placed on the glass slide and left to dry. Once it has dried, the slide is washed with liquid B. If the washing reveals a purple ring, the person is infected. If it washes clean, then the person is not.

Development of DNA Logic Operations for Viral Diagnostics.

The goal of this NIH funded project (with David Wright in Chemistry, Jim Crowe in the Medical Center) is to develop and evaluate a new paradigm in virus detection. The approach is based on a combination of nanoparticle surface chemistry, tag-specific DNA sequences, and DNA ligation logical AND operators.

Multispectral quantum dot-based retinal imaging.

The unique optical properties of quantum dots offer the potential for new optical methods to study molecular events. This NIH funded project seeks to develop a platform for the real-time, in vivo analysis of multiple cellular and molecular events in vivo using quantum dot nanocrystals and retinal fluorescence microscopy.

Further, we also seek (with Sergio Fazio in Medicine & Ash Jayagopal in Chemistry) to use novel retinal imaging agents as a tool to predict the progression of atherosclerotic lesions in coronary arteries.


The Vanderbilt research environment is defined by collaboration. Only in a select few institutions across the nation can you really toss a rock from a window in the BME department and literally break a window in the medical center (and even in a number of other science and engineering departments!). Therefore, below is a small sampling of the people who we either currently collaborate with or have collaborated with especially closely.

  • David W. Wright, Department of Chemistry, Vanderbilt University [link]
  • James Crowe, Jr. Departments of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center [link]
  • Sergio Fazio, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center [link]
  • Douglas C. Heimburger, Department of Medicine, Institute for Global Health, Vanderbilt¬† University Medical Center [link]
  • Ash Jayagopal, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center [link]
  • Ray L. Mernaugh, Department of Biochemistry, Vanderbilt University Medical Center [link]
  • William Pao, Departments of Medicine, Cancer Biology, Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology @ Vanderbilt University Medical Center [link]
  • John S. Penn, Department of Opthalmology, Vanderbilt Eye Institute [link]
  • Sandy J. Rosenthal, Department of Chemistry, Vanderbilt University [link]
  • Sten H. Vermund, Departments of Pediatrics, Health Policy, and Medicine and Director of the Institute for Global Health, Vanderbilt University Medical Center [link]
  • John V. Williams, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University Medical Center [link]