Department of Chemistry

Analytical Chemistry

Research ImageConsistently ranked as one of the top analytical divisions in the United States, ranked number 1 for the fifth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report magazine in its 2011 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools," the analytical division is recognized as a world leader in this scientific area.

Following the tradition set by the late Professor Charles N. Reilley, the division extends the frontier of the field through a focus on fundamental studies related to chemical analysis and the development of innovative instrumentation. All traditional areas of research are represented, including electrochemistry, mass spectrometry, microscopy, sensors, separations and spectroscopy.

Research projects span a wide range of chemical analysis science and include, but are not limited to, biosensors, nanoscopic materials, neurochemistry, microvolume separations and analysis, protein adsorption, supercritical fluids and single-molecule analysis; for examples of currently active research projects please see the list below. The division has strong relationships with a large number of companies in the pharmaceutical, chemical and scientific instrumentation industries, which provide continued support of research fellowships and the Analytical Seminar series.


Recent Research Highlights

Small Sample Sorting

Primary patient samples are the gold standard for molecular investigations of tumor biology yet are difficult to acquire, heterogeneous in nature and variable in size. Patient-derived xenografts, PDXs, comprised of primary tumor tissue cultured in host organisms such as nude mice permit the propagation of human tumor samples in an in vivo environment and closely mimic the phenotype and gene expression profile of the primary tumor. Although PDX models reduce the cost and complexity of acquiring sample tissue and permit repeated sampling of the primary tumor, these samples are typically contaminated by immune, blood, and vascular tissues from the host organism while also being limited in size.

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For very small tissue samples, on the order of 103 cells, purification by fluorescence-activated cell sorting, FACS, is not feasible while magnetic activated cell sorting, MACS, of small samples results in very low purity, low yield, and poor viability. Researchers in the Allbritton Group have now developed a platform for imaging cytometry integrated with micropallet array technology to perform automated cell sorting on very small samples obtained from PDX models of pancreatic and colorectal cancer using antibody staining of EpCAM, CD326, as a selection criteria. Published in Cytometry Part A, the data collected demonstrate the ability to automate and efficiently separate samples with very low number of cells.



New advances enable long-term organotypic culture of colonic epithelial stem cells that develop into structures known as colonoids. Colonoids represent a primary tissue source acting as a potential starting material for development of an in vitro model of the colon. Key features of colonic crypt isolation and subsequent colonoid culture have not been systematically optimized compromising efficiency and reproducibility. Research from the Allbritton Group, published in the Journal of Biological Engineering, show how murine crypt isolation yield and quality can be optimized, and colonoid culture efficiency measured in microfabricated culture devices.

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Improved crypt isolation and 3-D colonoid culture, along with an understanding of colonic epithelial cell behavior in the presence of microfabrication substrates will support development of "organ-on-a-chip" approaches for studies using primary colonic epithelium.


Representative Publications

High Process Yield Rates of Thermoplastic Nanofluidic Devices Using a Hybrid Thermal Assembly Technique. Franklin I. Uba, Bo Hu, Kumuditha Weerakoon-Ratnayake, Nyote Oliver-Calixte, and Steven A. Soper. Lab Chip, 2015, Advance Article, DOI: 10.1039/C4LC01254B.

In Vivo Analytical Performance of Nitric Oxide-Releasing Glucose Biosensors. Robert J. Soto, Benjamin J. Privett, and Mark H. Schoenfisch. Anal. Chem., 2014, 86 (14), pp 7141–7149.

Medullary Norepinephrine Neurons Modulate Local Oxygen Concentrations in the Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis. Elizabeth S Bucher, Megan E Fox, Laura Kim, Douglas C Kirkpatrick, Nathan T Rodeberg, Anna M Belle and Mark Wightman. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism (2014) 34, 1128–1137.

Dynamics and Evolution of β-Catenin-Dependent Wnt Signaling Revealed through Massively Parallel Clonogenic Screening. Pavak K. Shah, Matthew P. Walker, Christopher E. Sims, Michael B. Major, and Nancy L. Allbritton. Integr. Biol., 2014,6, 673-684.

Small Sample Sorting of Primary Adherent Cells by Automated Micropallet Imaging and Release. Pavak K. Shah, Silvia Gabriela Herrera-Loeza, Christopher E. Sims, Jen Jen Yeh, and Nancy L. Allbritton. Cytometry Part A, Volume 85, Issue 7, pages 642–649, July 2014.

Optimization of 3-D Organotypic Primary Colonic Cultures for Organ-on-Chip Applications. Asad A Ahmad, Yuli Wang, Adam D Gracz, Christopher E Sims, Scott T Magness and Nancy L Allbritton. Journal of Biological Engineering 2014, 8:9.

Immobilization of Lambda Exonuclease onto Polymer Micropillar Arrays for the Solid-Phase Digestion of dsDNAs. Nyoté J. Oliver-Calixte, Franklin I. Uba, Katrina N. Battle, Kumuditha M. Weerakoon-Ratnayake, and Steven A. Soper. Anal. Chem., 2014, 86 (9), pp 4447–4454.

Chemical Vapor Deposition of Aminopropyl Silanes in Microfluidic Channels for Highly Efficient Microchip Capillary Electrophoresis-Electrospray Ionization-Mass Spectrometry. Nicholas G. Batz, J. Scott Mellors, Jean Pierre Alarie, and J. Michael Ramsey. Anal. Chem., 2014, 86 (7), pp 3493–3500.

Micropallet Arrays for the Capture, Isolation and Culture of Circulating Tumor Cells from Whole Blood of Mice Engrafted with Primary Human Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. Guohua Xu, Yansheng Ye, Xiaoli Liu, Shufen Cao, Qiong Wu, Kai Cheng, Maili Liu, Gary J. Pielak, and Conggang Li. Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Volume 54, 15 April 2014, Pages 476–483.

Fluorous Enzymatic Synthesis of Phosphatidylinositides. Weigang Huang, Angela Proctor, Christopher E. Sims, Nancy L. Allbritton, and Qisheng Zhang. Chem. Commun., 2014,50, 2928-2931.