Faculty & Staff
Prof. Emori’s research interests are in nanometer-thick materials with robust spin-driven physics. Many of the physical phenomena studied are pronounced at room temperature and are essential for next-generation computing and communications technologies. Examples include low-loss spin dynamics in epitaxial oxide thin films, spin torque effects arising from thin-film interfaces, and chiral domain walls in ultrathin heterostructures. The group’s experimental capabilities encompass synthesis of high-quality magnetic thin films and heterostructures, tabletop measurements of spin transport and dynamics, and element-specific static and dynamic magnetic characterization at synchrotron facilities.
Dr. Finkielstein is Associate Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech, Director of the Integrated Cellular Responses Laboratory, and Member of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation.
She has more than fifteen years experience as an accomplished scholar, teacher, and researcher. She founded the Integrated Cellular Responses Laboratory (ICRL) at Virginia Tech where her group works to understand the contribution of environmental factors on breast cancer initiation and progression.
Dr. Finkielstein's laboratory has produced over 40 publications and book chapters in the field, including articles in top journals such as Nature and Cell. In addition, She has filled and commercialized patents, trained over 120 undergraduate students that continued their graduate education in top and Ivy League Universities, and graduated numerous MSc and PhDs in the last years. Furthermore, Dr. Finkielstein has been running an international high school exchange program that has facilitated a new cultural and scientific experience to many Virginia and Argentinean students.
Research Scientist, Virginia Tech, ICTAS
Associate Director, Nanoscale Characterization & Fabrication Lab (NCFL)
Associate Director, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, NanoEarth (an NNCI node)
President/Founder, NanoSafe, Inc.
My research interests are inherently interdisciplinary and focused on developing and implementing creative solutions to protect human health and promote environmental sustainability. Over the last 15 years, my research programs have explored the applications and implications of engineered nanomaterials in environmental systems for diverse clients in industry, non-profit organizations, and government agencies including the US Department of Defense (Air Force, Army, Navy), EPA, NASA, NOAA, NSF and DEFRA (UK). My current research interests are focused on applying lessons learned from nanotechnology health and safety to help ensure public/national security and resilience amidst the rapid development and deployment of emerging and converging technology platforms incorporating, for example, combinations of nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and cyber security. Teaching and outreach are essential components of my research and include efforts to promote student-led STEM entrepreneurship/social entrepreneurship and collaborations with diverse and underrepresented groups.
Dr. Liu earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Zhejiang University (P. R. China) in 2005. Before completing his doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (advisor, Dr. Paul F. Nealey), he worked at HGST, a Western Digital® company (California), to apply his findings on 15-nm block copolymer lithography in magnetic data storage in 2010. After completing his doctorate in 2011, he conducted postdoctoral research at Northwestern University (advisor, Dr. Chad A. Mirkin), where he was named an Outstanding Researcher in the International Institute for Nanotechnology.
He joined as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and an affiliated professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Virginia Tech in Fall 2014. He is also an assistant professor of Nanoscience in the Academy of Integrated Science (AIS) and is affiliated with the Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (VTSuN)and the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute (MII), a Macromolecular Science and Engineering program at Virginia Tech.
Liu has four patents assigned to Western Digital® and one patent licensed to Intel®.
Associate Professor, Geosciences
Leader, Division of Nanoscience
Luther and Alice Hamlett Junior Faculty Fellow
Assistant Professor, University Libraries
Dr. Brown's research involves the application of computational molecular modeling and bioinformatic tools to relate the structure and dynamics of molecular systems to function. Dr. Brown also runs the DataBridge undergraduate research program, which trains and has students apply data science techniques to a variety of data-centric projects the group consults on with collaborators from all over campus and beyond. Projects include working with historical election data, text data mining for antimicrobial resistance and COVID-19 topics, and more. Data visualization, analysis (trend spotting, text data mining, etc), and tool generation are areas where students work to find solutions for research projects.
Dr. Capelluto has published more than 30 papers in journals such as Nature, Cell, Structure, Journal of Biological Chemistry, and Journal of Immunology. The central theme of his research is to understand how membrane protein-lipid interactions drive intracellular signaling and modulate cellular processes ranging from the regulation of the innate immune response, endosomal membrane trafficking to blood coagulation.
Dr. Matson's research group develops new materials for biology and medicine using techniques and tools from organic polymer chemistry and supramolecular chemistry. The group is interdisciplinary, with the goal of designing and synthesizing new polymers and gels for various applications. Current areas of focus include:
- New compounds for gasotransmitter release
- Peptide-based responsive materials
- Novel covalent nanostructures with anisotropic shapes
Assistant Professor, Chemistry
Naturally occurring small molecules (natural products) have long played a critical role in drug discovery with estimates that over 65% of all approved small molecule drugs are either natural products, derivatives, or contain the pharmacophore of a natural product. Some important examples include taxol (anticancer), rapamycin (immunosuppressive), and penicillin (antibiotic) - these drugs have saved countless lives and influenced healthcare outcomes worldwide. The potent and specific bioactivities of natural products is due to their intricate structures, which result from millions of years of evolutionary selection to fine tune their ecological roles. Beginning in Aug. 2020, my lab will use a function-first approach to discover novel natural products from underexplored environmental niches that self-select for production of biologically active small molecules. For example, we will investigate marine egg mass microbiomes to discover metabolites that deter predation and these compounds could serve as therapeutic leads to treat cancer and infections. We will also study small molecule electron shuttles that deep-sea hydrothermal vent bacteria use for respiration on solid mineral substrates and work to understand the chemical exchanges between pathogens and symbionts of hard coral. By studying the chemistry of ecological systems, we will uncover new bioactive natural products and unravel biological mysteries.
Professor and Department Chair of Chemistry College
Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation
The finite supply of fossil fuels and the possible environmental impact of such energy sources has garnered the scientific community's attention for the development of alternative, overall carbon-neutral fuel sources. The sun provides enough energy every hour to power the earth for a year. However, two of the remaining challenges that limit the utilization of solar energy are the development of cheap and efficient solar harvesting materials and advances in energy storage technology. Natural photosynthetic systems utilize the sun's energy to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, nature's stored solar fuel. Artificial photosynthetic systems that can oxidize wear and reduce carbon dioxide efficiently to a solar fuel could represent the breakthrough solar power needs to become a viable energy source. Current efforts include:
- Investigating the structure-function relationship of novel molecular materials for water oxidation, the oxidation of organic compounds, carbon dioxide reduction, and carbon utilization.
- Utilizing pulsed laser techniques to investigate the mechanism of light-harvesting by molecular materials, including energy transfer, upconversion, and photocatalysis.
- Exploring inorganic charge-transfer spin-crossover complexes as catalytic species in long-lived charge-separated states
- Other projects not related to artificial photosynthesis - chemical warfare agent degradation by molecular materials and composite materials for responsive and energy applications.
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs/ Academic Dean
Assistant Professor, Physics
Pleimling’s research, which is focused on Statistical Physics and Condensed Matter Physics, has resulted in more than 140 peer-reviewed publications. He is the author of a textbook on aging and non-equilibrium phase transitions and the editor of two books on the same topic. He has been the research advisor of 17 Ph.D. students and of 32 undergraduate students. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Army Research Office, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the European Commission. In 2015 he was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society “For seminal and sustained contributions to computational statistical physics, specifically his investigations of complex systems far from thermal equilibrium, and in-depth understanding of non-equilibrium relaxation and physical aging phenomena.”
Pleimling has served his scientific community in various ways. From 2011 until 2014 he served as Member-at-Large of the Executive Committee of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society (SESAPS), before being elected in 2015 to the Chair line, which culminated with him serving as Section Chair in 2017, of that regional section of the American Physical Society. He is an Independent Expert helping the European Research Agency with tasks related to research and technological development. Between 2012 and 2017 he served as Vice-Chair of the Physics Panel for the
Marie Curie Individual Fellowships. He is the organizer of numerous scientific meetings, workshops, and focus sessions, and currently serves on the Editorial Board of Scientific Reports (Nature). He is reviewer for the leading research journals in the field and has been recognized in 2016 as an Outstanding Referee for the journals of the American Physical Society and in 2019 as an EPL Distinguished Referee. At the university level he served between 2016 and 2020 on the Stakeholder Committee of the Economical and Sustainable Materials Destination Area.
Pleimling’s teaching excellence has been recognized through different teaching awards. In 2016 he has received both the College of Science Certificate of Teaching Excellence and the University Academy of Teaching Excellence Alumni Teaching Award, before receiving the Dr. Carroll B. Shannon Excellence in Teaching Award in 2017.
Dr. Pleimling has led various pedagogical innovations at departmental, college, and university levels. He created the undergraduate course Mathematical Methods in Physics and established, as Chair of the Undergraduate Committee of the Department of Physics, the different options for the Bachelor of Arts in Physics as well as the Minor in Biological Physics. As the College of Science representative (from 2013 until 2019) of the University Curriculum Committee for Liberal Education (now called the University Curriculum Committee for General Education) he has helped creating the university-wide Pathways to General Education program. Together with Prof. John Tyson from the Department of Biological Sciences he developed the Integrated Science Curriculum, a two-year course and lab sequence for majors in the College of Science that covers the fundamentals of Chemistry, Physics, and Biology integrated with Calculus and Linear Algebra (this sequence has been highlighted in Popular Mechanics as “The Future of Science Classrooms”). He has been part of faculty teams that created different new undergraduate programs, including the interdisciplinary majors in Systems Biology and Computational Modeling and Data Analytics (CMDA) as well as the interdisciplinary minors in Materials and Society and in Data and Decisions. During his tenure as Director of the Academy of Integrated Science, the number of majors in the three undergraduate degree programs CMDA, Nanoscience, and Systems Biology, has grown from 100 majors in 2015 to 750 majors in 2020.