Macdonald Research Group

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We are a nanoparticle synthesis group in the Department of Chemistry at Vanderbilt University. Myself and my students contribute fundamental knowledge to problems in green energy and catalysis, and we are facinated by the potential of nanotechnology.

Our research focuses on preparing new nanoparticles for applications in catalysis, photocatalysis and non-linear optics. We do this by paying close attention to the role of the surface chemsitry and ligands on nanocrystals, examining the nuances of the synthetic mechanism of how nanocrystals form in soltuion, and finding clever ways to make exciting crystalline phases and materials that don't exist in the bulk or simply have never been formed before.

Every day, we synthesize nanocrsytals in our chemistry laboratory using variatons on traditional chemistry techniques one might have first learned in an organic chemsitry laboratory course. The similarities end there.

My students take the tiny crystals to the electron microscope, where they can see what they made. They can achieve magnifications so high, they often can image lines from the lattice of the atomic crystal structures. Elemental mapping techniques show them on the nanoscale where all the different elements are in their crystals. The goal is to understand how the conditons of the syntheses are changing the compoisiton, shape, atomic structre and size of the nanocrystals. We explore how that structure influences and improves the ability of these nanocrystals to absorb and fluoresce light and to perform catalytic reactions.

Our overarching goal is to be innovators in how to make cool small stuff.

Recent Happy Dances and Fist Pumps

January, 2022 Big things afoot! Emma Endres joined the group, and Eric and Tony, our awesome undergrads, got their paper published in Nanoscale

January, 2021 Welcome to the group Andrey Shults! And Maddy passed her Qual exam!

October, 2020 Jeremy won the Nanoday virtual poster session not once, but twice! First place for fan favorite, and second place for the judged competition!

September, 2020 Congrats to Chris who had his paper published in Nanoletters!

Summer, 2020 Wecome to the group, Jeremy (IMS) and Danielle (Chemistry)! It is a tough time to strat in a new lab, but we'll struggle through it. You are allready bringing new energy to the lab with your enthusiasm and knowlegde.

April, 2020 Janet, John McLean and Andrzej Balinski used ethanol from the store room to make a WHOLE LOTTA hand sanitizer for the Vanderbilt communiy and got interveiwed for it. It was just a little way chemists could help fighting the corona virus.

April, 2020 An important phone call from the department chair: Janet got Tenure!  

April, 2020 It started with an light bulb moment while listening to the Nashville Symphony, and now years later it is a paper on using plasmonic particles to cause the second harmonic generation of light. IMS graduate student Nathan Spear was the one to finally get it to work and mastering both the chemistry in the Macdonald Group and the non-linear optics in the Haglund Group

March, 2020 It was a mixed bag of emotions when both Evan and Jordan sucessfully defended their PhD theses in the space of one week. Sadness to see them end their time in the Macdonald Lab, excitment to see them show of their great work, but mostly PRIDE.

February, 2020 Our coauthored paper with the Kidambi Group has been accepted!

January, 2020 Welcome to our newest group member, Lexie Koziel!

November, 2019, Janet's editorial in Chemistry of Materials "Negotiating the Academic Letter of Offer" gets tweeted 75 times and racks up 2800 reads in just a few weeks! Solid, straight- forward advice (we hope) for those on the academic job market.

June 20, 2019 Emil and Evan have their paper published in Chemsitry of Materials!

May 10, 2019 Andrew, Nikki and Nathan and in collaboartion with the Sargent group at the University of Toronto had their paper published in Nanoscale!

Feb 27, 2019 Janet sat on Kemar Reid's thesis defense while in labour, then walked/waddled herself to Vanderbilt OB triage. Welcome to the world, baby Everett!

Feb 19, 2019 Evan rocked is Independant Reserach Propsal with an ambitious idea- the last hoop before writing his thesis.

Dec 5, 2019 Maddy passed her prelim exam for the Interdiciplinary Materials Science PhD program!

Dec 3, 2018 Jordan's Paper is a top 20 download this month in Chemistry of Materials!(And the figures are BEAU-tiful)

Nov 27, 2018 Nathan passed his prelim exam for the Interdiciplinary Materials Science PhD program!

Nov. 21, 2018 Emil and Andy's paper is accepted in Chemistry of Materials, building on work from Summer's MSc thesis!

Nov 3, 2018 Puxin wins 1st place for her poster in the Undergraduate Division at SERMACS in Augusta, Ga! "Wait, I was being judged?" she asked.

Oct 15, 2018 Cristopher passed his prelim exam for the Chemsitry Graduate program!

Sept 10, 2018 Andrew is our newest minted PhD! He showed us what is possible when nanocrystal chemists are not afraid of a little organic chemistry.

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