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The Lockett Group

The Lockett Group

The Lockett Group uses a multidisciplinary approach, combining aspects of analytical chemistry, materials science, biochemistry, molecular biology, and biomedical engineering to develop new analytical tools and in vitro assays to predict and quantify molecular interactions occurring in a cell or within a community of cells.

We are particularly interested in developing new technologies to: i) fabricate arrays of biomolecules in which we could screen drug metabolism in a high-throughput manner; ii) study the response of enzymes and cells to environmental stresses in tissue-like constructs that mimic in vivo conditions. We focus keenly on analytical tools that are amenable to high-throughput screening, are easily assembled or setup, and provide quantitative data.


Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

An undergraduate research project is an exciting and rewarding experience. Undergraduate research can help you acquire a spirit of inquiry, initiative, independence, sound judgment, patience, persistence, alertness, and the ability to use the chemical literature. The Department strongly endorses undergraduate research as one of the potentially most rewarding aspects of your undergraduate experience.

Although successful completion of an undergraduate research project is a requirement for graduation with Honors or Highest Honors, it is not necessary to be a participant in the honors program to undertake a research project. Visit the Office for Undegraduate Research to learn where "your curiosity can lead you."


Caitlin wins ACS Organic Fellowship

Caitlin McMahon, a third year graduate student in the Alexanian Group, has been selected by the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry to receive a 2014-2015 Graduate Fellowship. Awardees for this highly competitive award are selected by an independent committee, and evidence of research accomplishments is an important factor in the selection process. Caitlin will travel to the 2015 National Organic Symposium to present a poster of her research.

Caitlin McMahon

Caitlin's research focuses on the development of metal-catalyzed organic reactions, with the goal of discovering new ways to form carbon-carbon bonds and expanding the methodology available to synthesize organic building blocks. More specifically, she has developed a palladium-catalyzed, intermolecular Heck-type reaction using alkyl electrophiles - significantly expanding the scope of the widely-utilized Heck reaction. She is currently studying carbonylative metal-catalyzed reactions, building functionalized organic molecules by forming two carbon-carbon bonds in one step under mild conditions.


Diversity & Student Success Program

Chemistry Professor and Chair, Valerie Ashby, was, along with Chancellor Folt and Graduate School Dean Steve Matson, one of the speakers as the Graduate School recently launched a program focused on academic success, professional development and degree completion for graduate students from diverse and underrepresented groups.

Professor Valerie Ashby

All three speakers highlighted the University's commitment to sustaining a diverse graduate student body and fostering a climate of inclusion and acceptance. Ashby, a faculty advisor for the program, said the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost has made a significant financial commitment to the program. The new program's co-directors are Kacey Hammel and Kathy Wood. They will collaborate with faculty, staff, students and administrators to create targeted academic and professional development initiatives contributing to the successful degree completion of each graduate student.


Hicks Young Investigator Award Winner

Professor Hicks

Assistant Professor Leslie Hicks has been awarded the Arthur C. Neish Young Investigator Award. These awards are given each year by the Phytochemical Society of North America to outstanding early career scientists. The young investigator chosen will present their research at the annual meeting as part of the Arthur C. Neish Young Investigator Mini-symposium. Leslie made her presentation earlier this month at the 53rd Annual Meeting in Raleigh. Congratulations, Leslie!


Brian Hogan Thorp Scholar

Assistant Professor Brian Hogan has been honored for his recent graduation from the Carolina Center for Public Service's Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars program. Brian was one of nine members of the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars, FES, Class IV who worked over the past two years to strengthen partnerships between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the surrounding community.

Brian Hogan Thorp Scholar

The program, an initiative of the Carolina Center for Public Service, brings together selected faculty from across campus to engage in a two-year experiential, competency-based curriculum designed to advance their scholarship. Scholars participate in sessions in community settings to learn from Carolina faculty and their community partners and build relationships through work such as training teachers to integrate experiential learning into their classrooms. Brian is the academic director for the Scholars' Latino Initiative, a program dedicated to increasing college access for Latino high school students. He helped build "SLIence," a collaboration between McDougle Middle School and the Scholars’ Latino Initiative.


New Avenues in Solar Fuel Production

Chemists have long sought new ways to create energy-rich fuels - ideally via reactions powered by a renewable resource such as the sun. But scientists still have a lot to learn about solar-powered reactions, and a new study by Thomas Eisenhart and Jillian Dempsey sheds light on how they occur. The proton-coupled electron transfer reaction, PCET, is a key light-driven step in the conversion of small molecules into energy-rich fuels. Although prior research has provided a basic understanding of PCET reactions between molecules in their ground states, much less is known about the reactions between electronically excited molecules.

Research Image

In the article, which made the cover of JACS, and was also featured in JACS Spotlights, the team reports results from a mechanistic study of excited-state PCET reactions between two small molecules, acridine orange and tri-tert-butylphenol. The step-by-step process by which the reaction occurs has not been determined previously, but since each of the reaction components has a unique spectroscopic signature, the researchers can monitor each step with transient absorption spectroscopy. The results help explain the intimate coupling of light absorption with both proton and electron transfer, which the authors say will help pave the way for new avenues in solar fuel production.

Christine Herman, Ph.D., JACS


Cerebral Blood Flow

Neurovascular coupling is understood to be the underlying mechanism of functional hyperemia, but the actions of the neurotransmitters involved are not well characterized. In an article published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, researchers in the Wightman Group investigate the local role of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine in the ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, vBNST, of an anesthetized rat by measuring O2, which is delivered during functional hyperemia. Extracellular changes in norepinephrine and O2 were simultaneously monitored using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry. Introduction of norepinephrine by electrical stimulation of the ventral noradrenergic bundle or by iontophoretic ejection induced an initial increase in O2 levels followed by a brief dip below baseline.

Research Image

Supporting the role of a hyperemic response, the O2 increases were absent in a brain slice containing the vBNST. Administration of selective pharmacological agents demonstrated that both phases of this response involve β-adrenoceptor activation, where the delayed decrease in O2 is sensitive to both α- and β-receptor subtypes. Selective lesioning of the locus coeruleus with the neurotoxin DSP-4 confirmed that these responses are caused by the noradrenergic cells originating in the nucleus of the solitary tract and A1 cell groups. Overall, these results support that non-coerulean norepinephrine release can mediate activity-induced O2 influx in a deep brain region.



At the Department of Chemistry, we feel strongly that diversity is crucial to our pursuit of academic excellence, and we are deeply committed to creating a diverse and inclusive community. We support UNC's policy, which states that "the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to equality of opportunity and pledges that it will not practice or permit discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran's status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."