Cullen Distinguished Professor and Associate Department
Chair, Department of Chemistry
Organic and Materials Research Chemistry
Research in the Lee group can be divided into six general areas: (1) selectively fluorinated organic thin films, (2) complex organic interfaces with controlled local composition, structure, and function, (3) biologically active interfaces, (4) nanoparticle growth and manipulation, (5) biopolymers and conducting polymers, and (6) polymerization catalyst development. The common thread that ties all of the research areas together is the use of synthesis be it organic, inorganic, organometallic, or solid-state to prepare new materials for technological applications. Progress in each of the areas requires the successful development and integration of a wide range of research skills, starting with the synthesis of new materials, followed by the collection and analysis of data, and ending with the oral and written communication of the results. As a natural consequence of this integrated approach, students departing from the Lee group are equipped with an unusually broad range of research capabilities. For example, analytical instrumentation commonly employed by the group includes IR, NMR, and UV-vis spectroscopies, GC, GC/MS, HPLC, gel permeation chromatography (GPC), dynamic light scattering (DLS), contact angle goniometry, ellipsometry, polarization modulation reflection absorption spectroscopy (PM-IRRAS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Members of the Lee group also gain experience using other specialized analytical instrumentation in collaborative projects with other research groups. Current studies of fluorinated films utilize self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) to generate nanoscale fluorocarbon thin-film coatings (essentially nanoscale analogs of Teflon) for use in miniaturized electronic device applications and as coatings for biomaterials. Research on complex interfaces targets the development of new types of SAM adsorbates for the purpose of generating structurally defined surfaces that expose a mixture of functional groups designed to elicit specific molecular recognition (e.g., sensor devices) and/or catalysis (e.g., artificial enzymes). Studies of biologically active interfaces utilize SAMs to enhance the growth of protein crystals and to template cell adhesion and proliferation for applications in tissue engineering.
Since much of the work in the Lee group is collaborative in nature, students often work side-by-side with chemical engineers, physicists, electrical engineers, biochemists, and biomedical engineers. In this type of environment, students gain knowledge and skills beyond those typically encountered in traditional synthetic chemistry laboratories