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Current Faculty Participants


Brian Bachmann

The primary mission of the Bachmann Lab is to apply knowledge of the design rules for secondary metabolism at the chemical, biochemical and genetic levels toward the biosynthesis of "non-natural" compounds of high value to biomedical research and the clinic. Key to this program in "synthetic biology" is the dissection of the mechanisms by which life makes bioactive molecules in vivo. The lab is organized according to three interlocking research areas: Biosynthesis, Synthetic Biology, and Discovery. These subgroups each have basic research and applied components and overlap with one another both thematically and methodologically.

More info on the lab website.


Brian Bachmann headshot

Lauren Buchanan

The Buchanan lab studies myloid protein misfolding and aggregation. Buchanan projects are focused on determining mechanisms of amyloid protein misfolding and aggregation using two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy. In particular, we are interested in characterizing oligomers responsible for amyloid toxicity, learning how mutations alter aggregation pathways, and determining how nanoparticles may be used as amyloid therapeutics.

More info on the lab website.


Lauren Buchanan

Walter Chazin

The Chazin laboratory uses a structural biology perspective to address important questions in biology and medicine.  Active research programs include innate immune response and inflammation, and DNA replication, damage response and repair. Projects involve purification of proteins and protein complexes, measurement of binding affinities, determination of three-dimensional structures, in vitro and cell-based biochemical assays, and fragment-based inhibitor discovery.  REU students work alongside a graduate student or postdoctoral mentor on specific aspects of these projects, tailored to their laboratory experience and learning objectives. 

More information can be found on our lab website.


Walter Chazin Photo

David Cliffel

The Cliffel Lab blends together analytical chemistry, biology, and materials science to tackle problems in chemistry and chemical biology. To do so, we combine a number of research areas such as electrochemistry, microphysiometry, and nanotechnology. We develop biosensor devices to measure organ-on-a-chip systems that are used to study the effects of pharmaceuticals and toxins. Our microclinical analyzer can be paired with these systems and combines microfluidics with an electrode designed for electrochemical measurements.

More info on the lab website.




Dave Cliffel Photo_preferred

Vsevolod Gurevich

Structure-function studies of visual arrestin-1 and non-visual arrestin-2 and -3. Experiments in vitro (arrestin-1) and in cultured cells (arrestin-2 and -3) to test the binding to cognate receptors and in-cell signaling functions. An advanced student will also use Swiss pdb viewer or ViewerPro to visualize structure and select mutagenesis targets.

More info on lab website.


Vsevolod Gurevich Photo

Rick Haselton

We seek to develop technologies for diagnostic and research applications at the nano and molecular level using both in vitro and in vivo systems.The Haselton Laboratory is an active participant in LIGHT, which aims to accelerate the development of global health technologies in a multidisciplinary research environment addressing the needs of patients and physicians in low-resource settings. We have also invented a new technology that we call Adaptive PCR that lowers the barrier for performing PCR and promises to expand access to this valuable diagnostic tool. 

More info on lab website.


Rick Haselton headshot

Jeff Johnston

Our laboratory develops innovative new reactions and syntheses of complex natural products. Although the skills developed are entirely within organic synthesis, we have increasingly leveraged our unique catalysis program to fuel the diversification of complex natural product-based therapeutics. The verticilide story is an exemplar, with impact in the discovery of new antiarrhythmia compounds. REU students will be exposed to these projects, and accept a role commensurate with their experience and potential. The synthesis of a promising new catalyst, preparation of a key intermediate through multistep synthesis, or expanding the scope of a newly discovered reaction are each possible summer-long projects, and each will immerse an REU student in the tactics and tools of organic synthesis.

More info on lab website.

  Jeff Johnston headshot

Daria Kim

The Kim group works in the areas of complex molecule synthesis and catalysis, focusing on the design of novel ligands and catalysts that enable site selective reactivity in highly oxidized systems by leveraging phenomena like molecular recognition and non-covalent directing effects. These species will then be used to access new disconnections in complex molecule synthesis, expand access to chiral molecules and develop bioconjugation reagents for monomer-selective labeling of biological glycans.

More info on lab website.

  Daria Kim headshot

John McLean

Bioanalytical Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry. Our research focuses on the design, construction, and application of advanced technologies for structural mass spectrometry, in particular, for studies in structural proteomics, systems biology, and biophysics. To identify and structurally characterize biomolecules from complex samples, we perform rapid (µs-ms) two-dimensional gas-phase separations using ion mobility-mass spectrometry (IM-MS) techniques. IM-MS provides separations on the basis of apparent surface area (ion-neutral collision cross section) and mass-to-charge (m/z), respectively. Biomolecular structural information is interpreted by comparing experimentally obtained collision cross-sections in the context of those obtained via molecular dynamics simulations.

More info on lab website.

  John McLean Photo

Jens Meiler

Research in the Meiler laboratory focuses on computational drug discovery in chemical biology. In discussion with the mentor, the student will choose between two possible projects: computational design of vaccine candidates targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus or small molecule drug discovery for treatment of schizophrenia and other neurological disorders.

More info on lab website.

  Jens Meiler Photo

Lars Plate

Proteomics, virology, drug discovery. The focus of the Plate group is to define the dynamics and the coordination of protein interaction networks in diverse cellular processes. Towards this goal, we develop new mass spectrometry-based proteomics and chemical biology tools. 

More info on lab website.

  Lars Plate Photo

Renã A. S. Robinson

We are particularly interested in Alzheimer’s disease and sepsis and how the periphery is involved in these disorders. Recently, we have become interested in using our technology to understand the molecular basis of health disparities in Alzheimer’s disease and sepsis. These questions require high-throughput analytical methodology and we specialize in developing novel proteomics approaches involving mass spectrometry that are useful for analyzing complex biological tissues, increasing sample multiplexing capability, and studying oxidative post-translational modifications.

More info on lab website.

  Rena Robinson headshot

Alexander Shuppe

My research program focuses on synthetic organic chemistry. Specifically, we are developing new modes of reactivity initiated by inert chemical bond cleavage processes; therefore, transforming of simple, stable, and abundant precursors to complex biologically active compounds. Through understanding the fundamental chemistry of reactive intermediates, developing new catalysts, and gaining mechanistic insights we will pursue solutions to long-standing synthetic challenges that may revolutionize how chemists prepare therapeutic compounds. We aim to directly apply these newly developed methods for the site-selective editing of medicinally relevant compounds. Trainees in my research group gain expertise in a range of areas (e.g., natural product total synthesis, organometallic chemistry, electrochemistry, photochemistry, and asymmetric catalysis).

  Alexander Shuppe

Michael Stone

DNA damage and repair. DNA damage is believed to represent the initiating step in chemical carcinogenesis. Our laboratory seeks to understand how specific DNA adducts perturb DNA structure and how these structural interfere with the biological processing of DNA. Both NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography play major roles in our research program. Our laboratory is affiliated with the Vanderbilt Center in Structural Biology. NMR spectroscopy is used to determine the three dimensional structures and dynamics of site-specifically adducted oligodeoxynucleotides in aqueous solution. Crystallographic approaches allow the structural determination of larger biomolecular complexes involving DNA processing enzymes.

More info on lab website.

  Michael Stone Photo

Steven Townsend

The broad objective of Professor Townsend's research program is to apply the power of chemical synthesis with challenging target molecules and to use it toward answering interesting questions in the biological sciences. He is well known for his pioneering contributions to human milk science, deciphering how mom makes molecules to protect her baby from disease. The chemical tools he has developed are particularly useful in human health and wellness also hold promise as precision therapeutics. Despite his extensive forays into biology, Dr. Townsend remains an organic chemist at heart, as evidenced by the synthesis of carbohydrate containing, bioactive molecules.

More info on lab website.

  Steven Townsend Photo

Allison Walker

Students in the Walker lab use a combination of computational and experimental techniques to discover and design bioactive natural products. The Walker lab uses machine learning and statistics to solve difficult problems in chemical biology. Since machine learning works best on large datasets, our focus is on problems with existing large datasets or easily generated datasets, allowing us to take advantage of the wealth of genomic and metagenomic sequences. Additionally, we explore data generated from molecular dynamics simulations along with next-generation sequencing of directed evolution experiments.

More info on lab website.

  Allison Walker Photo

Zhongyue (John) Yang

Computational Chemistry for Chemical Biology. The Yang group is actively exploring opportunities in the interface between computational chemical biology and data science.  My research group focuses on integrating first-principles simulation and data-driven modeling to automatically evaluate, understand, and design functional biomolecules for catalytic and biomedical applications.

More info on lab website.

  John Yang Photo