Research

November 26, 2019 at 5:10 pm

New NQPI Member Breaks Chemical Bonds, Builds Professional Partnerships

Jessica White’s research on metal complexes is relevant for medical research.

Jessica White’s research on metal complexes is relevant for medical research.

By Amanda Biederman, Ph.D.
NQPI writer
Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute 2019 Fall Newsletter

The development of effective treatments for cancer and infections represents a crucial aspect of the modern field of medical research. Dr. Jessica White, a newly inducted member of the Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute, is working to contribute to the growing body of literature in this field.

“Our research is focused on making some interesting metal complexes that absorb visible photons efficiently and then use that energy to break bonds between a metal and some other molecule,” said White, an Ohio University assistant professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry. “A long-term goal would be to make (compounds) that can kill cancer cells or bacterial cells selectively when they’re irradiated with light.”

When the treatment site is exposed to light, a cytotoxic molecule is activated that destroys cells only at the point of interest. Unlike traditional treatments, this approach (photodynamic therapy) would target the unwanted components (e.g., cancer cells or harmful bacteria) while preserving the integrity of healthy cells. Thus, photodynamic therapy may serve to mitigate the side effects often associated with these types of treatments.

White said she was originally trained in photochemistry as a doctoral student, where she worked with molecules that were involved in catalytic reactions. But during the next several years after the completion of her Ph.D. program, White’s research focus shifted, and she applied her newly gained technical knowledge towards her current field of study.

Although her research is still in the fundamental stage, White said she looks forward to ultimately building towards the biomedical applications of her work. Currently, she is collaborating with Dr. Monica Burdick, an OHIO professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, to study the effectiveness of her synthesized compounds against different cell lines.

White joined the OHIO community in 2016; since then, she has worked to balance teaching, setting up her laboratory, and training new graduate and undergraduate students. As a new NQPI member, White said she looks forward learning more about the perspectives of researchers from other scientific fields.

“There are a lot of quantum processes that are (relevant to) the fundamental understanding (of this research) that I think we as chemists often don’t have,” White said. “I’m hoping to learn from the physicists of NQPI.”

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