[Seminar] "Using recent Nobel Prize-winning chemistry for biochemical materials" by Prof. Barrett Eichler (Augustana University)


Friday, January 19, 2024 - 10:00 to 11:00


C016, Lab 1



Using recent Nobel Prize-winning chemistry for biochemical materials

Dr. Barrett Eichler, Augustana University

What do the three images above have in common?  They are related to the last two winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  In 2022, Bertozzi, Meldal, and Sharpless were named the Nobel Prize winners in chemistry for their work with “click chemistry”.  In 2023, Bawendi, Brus, and Yekimov won the same prize for their work with “quantum dots” (QDs).  What do these two chemistry topics have in common?  The work performed in Dr. Eichler’s research lab used both of them in trying to create new biomaterials.

Dr. Eichler will highlight his research into creating fluorescent probes for such things as cancer and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) using click chemistry to combine QDs and DNA strands called aptamers.  Aptamers are human-created, antibody-like strands of DNA or RNA that bind tightly and selectively to biological targets, such as extracellular proteins.  This quantum dot-aptamer probe is a visibly bright and selective way to identify specific biological targets, such as cancer-related proteins. 

Dr. Eichler will also discuss a new project using quaternary ammonium salts (QAS) to create antimicrobial compounds.  Antimicrobial resistance is increasing at an alarming pace and new antimicrobial compounds are always needed.  These are potential chemicals that could replace antimicrobial QAS, such as benzalkonium chloride and cetylpyridinium chloride, which have been used in antimicrobials for over 100 years and are still used in products such as hand soap. These QAS work by disrupting cell membranes in bacteria and yeast. Current work focuses on incorporating diarylacetylenes into QAS using click chemistry to potentially increase antimicrobial efficacy due to their rigidity and the ability to functionalize both ends into QAS.  

He will briefly also discuss his January 2025 study abroad course to Japan with his students from Augustana University.  The course is entitled “The Chemistry of Japanese Culture” and we will study the chemistry that is unique to Japan with visits to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Okinawa, with a visit to OIST planned.  Topics like indigo dyeing, soy sauce, Japanese industrial chemistry, wasabi, and many more will be investigated. 

Dr. Barrett Eichler is originally from Minnesota, USA.  He received a Chemistry B. A. degree from the University of Minnesota-Morris and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Inorganic Chemistry working with Dr. Robert (Bob) West on organosilicon and organogermanium multiple bonds.  He performed post-doctoral research with Dr. Phillip Power at the University of California-Davis on Group 14 low valent compounds.  He has taught at Minnesota State University-Moorhead and Northwest Missouri State University.  He has been at Augustana University since 2008, where he is a Full Professor and the Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. 
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