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Lauren E. Buchanan

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Buchanan is currently accepting graduate students for Fall 2024 - APPLY TODAY

The goal of the Buchanan research group is to gain a deeper understanding of protein structure and dynamics using two-dimensional infrared (2D IR) spectroscopy. As the function of a protein is directly dependent on its structure, our program has the potential to significantly expand our knowledge of the protein structure/function relationships that lie at the heart of biomedical and biomaterials research.

2D IR spectroscopy is a powerful tool for studying molecular structure and dynamics as it provides structural information analogous to 2D NMR, but with femtosecond time resolution. We are working to advance the ability of 2D IR to characterize protein structure and sensitively detect structural changes, including methods to detect structural heterogeneities without the need for labeling. When implemented in conjunction with site-specific labels, however, 2D IR spectroscopy is capable of residue-level structural resolution in proteins.  We will take advantage of the power of 2D IR spectroscopy across all areas of our research program.

Our research program is divided into several major themes. The first is to develop new approaches for studying mechanisms of amyloid aggregation, a process associated with the onset of more than 25 human diseases. Our approach will open the door for 2D IR spectroscopy to be used to monitor amyloid aggregation and determine oligomer conformations in cells and tissues, where the complex biological environment can greatly influence both aggregation pathways and oligomer and fibril structures.

The second thrust of our research program revolves around the interaction between biological proteins and the broad range of nanomaterials being explored for biomedical applications. Our aim is to determine the detailed structural changes that occur when proteins adsorb onto nanoparticles. This work has the potential to increase our understanding of adverse reactions to nanoparticle exposure and guide the design of nanoparticle therapeutics.

Finally, we are working in collaboration with Professor Joshua Caldwell (VU Mechanical Engineering) and Professor Thomas Folland (University of Iowa) to use 2D IR spectroscopy to better understand the strong coupling of light to molecular vibrations within novel nanoscale optical cavities and the effect that such 'vibrational polaritons' have on chemistry.