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College of Science & Engineering

Department of Physics & Astronomy

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Biophysics

 Interested in biophysics research? Learn about what our faculty explore!

My research uses mathematical models and computer simulations to understand and predict the behaviour of biological systems. I am particularly interested in studying disease processes and potential therapies or cures. The experiments and clinical trials used to study many diseases are very costly and time-consuming and the data we get are usually quite limited, so it’s often difficult to get a clear picture of which biological processes are important in causing a disease. This also makes it difficult to study different treatment regimens. By the time a drug makes it to a clinical trial, usually only a couple of different dose/timing regimens are tested in humans; not because they were found to be the optimal regimens after a thorough examination of all the possibilities, but typically based on the educated guess of the researchers heading the trial. An accurate computer model of the disease can not only help us understand the underlying dynamics of the disease but will be extremely helpful in assessing potential treatments. Computers can simulate thousands of different dose/timing regimens and will help doctors choose optimal regimens to test in patients. 

Viral Infections
Viral infections cause millions of illnesses every year and occasionally can cause widespread pandemics that can kill thousands of people in a brief period of time. I use mathematical models of the infection process to study different processes that influence the severity of viral infections. Some examples of processes our lab has studied are the emergence of drug resistance, the role of the immune response in clearing the infection, the interactions of co-infecting viruses, viral transport processes, and antiviral treatment. The long-term goal of this research is to develop an accurate model of infection in humans which can then be used to test a wide variety of drug treatment protocols and to simulate drug or vaccine treatment in high risk patients, reducing the risk to these patients. 

Cancer

Cancer is a family of diseases caused by cells that have lost the ability to regulate their replication. Current therapies for cancer can be invasive and induce serious, often debilitating side effects. Our lab has been working in collaboration with Dr. Naumov to develop better methods for delivering chemotherapeutic drugs to patients. By using mathematical models, we can better characterize the effectiveness of a drug and help quantify how much a particular delivery mechanism increases effectiveness. We are also investigating treatment of cancer using oncolytic (cancer-killing) viruses by combining viral infection models with cancer growth models. The main goal of this research is to determine how to keep virus from spreading out of the tumor into nearby non-cancerous cells.

My biophysics work is centered on the development and testing of drug delivery/imaging/sensing systems, based on carbon nanotubes and graphene. These nanomaterials do not only deliver molecular therapeutics in cells and tissues but also protect the normal tissue from possible adverse effects of their payload. Carbon nanotubes and graphene derivatives also possess a number of remarkable properties that allow them to serve as multimodal agents, providing simultaneous capabilities of drug transport, biological imaging via their intrinsic fluorescence, and biological sensing through to the change in their optical response. These models have a great promise for the advancement of molecular therapeutics of such complex conditions as cancer. 

Another direction of my research is focused on controlled modification of the optical properties of graphene derivatives. Graphene is a novel nanomaterial that has multiple applications in modern electronics due to its high electrical conductivity, flexibility and transparency. In order to fully utilize outstanding properties of graphene in optoelectronics, we can induce optical response in graphene by controlled functionalization. This process also allows us to selectively modify optical properties of graphene derivatives in order to match the needs of a particular application. Such graphene-based structures can possess a broad range of optical characteristics and, thus, could serve as highly promising materials for a wide variety of modern optoelectronic device applications. 

The major goal of the Biophysics Group is to merge optics and fluorescence with nanotechnology in order to create new research and developmental frontiers for modern medical diagnostics, biotechnology, genomics, and proteomics. The scope of our research is to explore biologically relevant processes at cellular and molecular levels. The range of technologies we utilize is very broad and includes basic fluorescence (time-resolved fluorescence/fluorescence microscopy, practical applications of Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET) as well as advanced fluorescence that include multi-photon fluorescence, fluorescence of nanoparticles, fluorescence probe development, and plasmonic fluorescence (molecular fluorescence stimulated/controlled by metallic nanostructures).  To fully exploit biomedical opportunities, we closely work and share instrumentation with the Center for Commercialization of Fluorescence Technologies (CCFT) at the University of North Texas Health Science Center just 10 minutes from TCU Campus. This fosters a very productive and collaborative environment and combines skills in biomedical sciences, spectroscopy, microscopy, chemistry, engineering, and nanotechnology.  Goals of modern preventive medicine include the development of new technologies for efficient diagnosis of diseases in their early stages and the detection of risk factors for a specific disease in an individual patient (personalized medicine). Furthermore, new and successful medical treatments will often require technologies capable of monitoring therapy progress at the cellular level using non-invasive or minimally invasive approaches. These requirements call for extremely sensitive diagnostic technologies and ultrasensitive non-invasive imaging technologies. Advanced fluorescence today is the leading technology for ultrasensitive non-invasive detection with ultimate sensitivity in the single molecule level.  Our facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art fluorescence instrumentation that only very few laboratories in the world have. We developed highly collaborative research model and our collaborators come from leading institutions in US and the World.