Physical organic chemistry informs interdisciplinary areas that link together chemical synthesis, biological and material sciences with theoretical and physical chemistry. Research in the Kehlbeck Lab falls into three major categories: Chemical Biology, Chemical Ecology, and Material Science. All three projects involve organic synthesis, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy(NMR), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry(LC-MS/MS) or gas chromatography-mass spectrometry(GC-MS). I am interested in molecular recognition events that control biological events and how we as chemists can design and synthesize small, non-natural, molecules that mimic the functional properties of materials found in nature. Researchers in my lab can gain experience in molecular modeling, solution and solid phase organic synthesis and purification using chromatographic methods as well as a variety of biophysical techniques including NMR and fluorescence techniques to characterize the structures and their interactions with target macromolecules.
Since 2004 I have been collaborating with Prof. Michael Hagerman in the area of organic-inorganic hybrid materials. Our research into the potential of cadmium selenide (CdSe) nanocrystals as chromophores in these devices is ongoing. We synthesize conductive polyaniline in the presence of functionalized nanocrystals in order to explore the potential of direct electronic communication through the ligand frame. NMR is a powerful tool to effectively monitor the surface functionalization of these CdSe nanocrystals with a variety of ligands. Specifically we use NMR spectroscopy to monitor the ligand exchange and surface coverage on CdSe nanocrystals, to quantify surface distribution in mixed ligand systems, and investigate ligand dynamics.
The lab also works with biologists at Union to identify natural products in biological systems using a variety of separation and spectroscopic techniques. Currently we are identifying and synthesizing a host of natural product pheromones in order to investigate their role in the chemical biology of Drosophila.