Zachary D. Schultz

Mentor Faculty
Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry


Research Description:

In the Schultz Lab, we believe the new scientific breakthroughs will be enabled by state of the art measurement. Our research focuses on developing new tools for understanding molecular effects on biological systems. To do this, we build and develop instrumentation that takes advantage of chemical and physical properties to characterize complex samples. The interaction between lasers, molecules, and nanomaterials provides unique information for detecting and identifying the components in biological systems. We are actively pursuing problems in metabolomics, protein receptor signaling, and instrumentation development.

PROTEIN RECEPTOR SIGNALING. Proteins on the surface and embedded with cellular membranes are key to communicating environmental signals to the machinery within cells, and are thus often drug targets. The ability to study the interaction of small molecules with receptors is a significant scientific challenge. By combining nanomaterials and state of the art spectroscopy and microscopy techniques, such as atomic force microscopy and tip-enhanced Raman scattering (TERS), we are able to monitor chemical signals associated with molecules interacting with specific proteins in intact cells. Understanding how molecules interact with signaling proteins offers promise to improve drug targeting as well as further investigate the role of membrane proteins in disease.

METABOLOMICS. The ability to specifically identify and quantify the 40,000+ metabolites in the human body is essential for a systems biology approach to health care. Changes in biochemical pathways can be distinguished provided enough intermediate molecules can be monitored accurately. Current technologies can identify about 20% of the metabolites in biological samples. Our lab invented and is developing sheath-flow surface enhanced Raman scattering, which uses the unique pattern of Raman scattered light associated with the structure of molecules, to improve molecular identification. We combine this Raman detection with capillary electrophoresis, liquid chromatography and other techniques. This methodology is orthogonal to existing technologies and should extend coverage of number of detectable metabolites.

INSTRUMENTATION. The ability to correlate molecular properties with spatial environment has led to exciting breakthroughs. We are developing methods, such as tip enhanced Raman scattering (TERS) microscopy and photothermal heterodyne imaging (PHI) to provide new insight into how molecular organization affects biological function. Our goal is to use our developed instrumentation to probe living cells and tissue. We are continuously exploring new approaches to improve sensitivity, speed, spatial resolution, and the information content of our experiments.

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005

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