Our research activities combine organic syntheses, polymerization strategies and polymer modification reactions in creative ways to afford unique macromolecular structures, which have been designed as functional nanostructures, polymer systems having unique macromolecular architectures, and/or degradable polymers. The emphasis is upon the incorporation of functions and functionalities into selective regions of polymer frameworks. In some cases, the function is added at the small molecule, monomer, stage, prior to polymerization, whereas, in other cases, chemical modifications are performed upon polymers or at the nanostructure level; each requires a strategic balance of chemical reactivity and the ultimate composition and structure.
Fundamental and applied studies are leading toward the incorporation of various functions into polymer materials, including biological activity, imaging capabilities, drug or gene delivery performance, toxin sequestration, photo- or electroactivity, triggered destruction, chemical reactivity, anti-biofouling characteristics, among others. Covalent and non-covalent interactions are employed in the development of new synthetic methodologies for the construction of the materials. Rigorous physicochemical characterization and in vitro and in vivo biological evaluations are performed. Therefore, students gain broad experience and achieve expertise across disciplines, with a foundation based upon organic chemistry, and extensions into analytical, physical and biological chemistries and engineering. Current projects aim to: 1) develop polymer coatings and nanostructures that exhibit minimized non-specific biological interactions and maximized specific biological interactions to achieve non-toxic anti-biofouling performance, tissue-selective targeting, tissue engineering, etc.; 2) expand the types of discrete nanoscale objects that can be produced from the supramolecular assembly of programmed block copolymers and/or from the intramolecular assembly of sophisticated macromolecular architectures; 3) advance polymerization chemistries to achieve selective polymerization of multi-functional monomers; 4) incorporate function into degradable polymers and degradable units regioselectively into nanostructures; 5) design materials as hosts for the controlled packaging, transport and release of diagnostic and therapeutic agents; 6) engineer complex materials as highly sensitive and multi-modal Imaging agents; 7) develop synthetic methodologies to control the size, shape, and composition of nanostructures and investigate their hierarchicalassemblies.