With support from the Chemical Measurement and Imaging (CMI) Program in the Division of Chemistry, and co-funding from the Office of Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Professor Dongmao Zhang and his group at Mississippi State University (MSU) are exploring and developing an innovative, accurate, ultra-sensitive, and reproducible analytical method for quantification of protein carbonyl, the widely accepted biomarker of protein oxidative damage. Specific objectives of this work are 1) the design and synthesis of a pair of Rhodamine dye derivatives for use as SERS labels of protein carbonyls. 2) the determination of the sensitivity, accuracy, reproducibility, and dynamic range of the SERS based protein carbonyl quantification technique. 3) the experimental and computational investigation of the effect of peptide and protein conjugation on adsorption, aggregation and the SERS activity of the labeling dyes. In addition, the sensitivity, accuracy, and reproducibility of the SERS method will be compared with the two most popular bioanalytical methods: mass spectroscopy and fluorescence.
The primary educational goals of the proposal are: 1) to continue engaging and mentoring undergraduate students in cross-disciplinary research in Dr. Zhang's lab from both Mississippi State University (the PI's home university) and Mississippi University for Women, a nearby non-PhD granting institution and 2) to help attract Mississippi high school students into STEM areas by partnering with a nearby high school that has a high drop-out and low college-attendance rate. By participating in the proposed research, high school, undergraduate, and graduate students will gain valuable experience in the area of nanoparticle interfacial interactions and optical spectroscopy. In an effort to enhance chemistry education in the partner high school, The PI and his group will assist the partner high school chemistry teacher in setting-up a teaching laboratory, to design and deliver chemistry experiments. The undergraduate student and high school student researchers in the PI's lab will share their college and research experience with their peers in the partner high school in order to inspire high school students to pursue careers in STEM areas. The learning from this long-term college/high school partnership will be shared nationwide through national conferences and/or journal publication. Dr. Zhang hopes to stimulate more creative ideas to promote education in less developed regions. Progress of the research and educational activities supported by this award will be made public on the PI's research website at www.chemistry.msstate.edu/people/faculty/detail.php?faculty=zhang