Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Groundbreaking Neuro-HIV Treatment in Development at UM Chemistry

Posted on: September 26th, 2023 by nhammer

UM researchers Jason Paris (left) and Eden Tanner are using an innovative approach to develop a treatment for neuro-HIV, neurological complications of HIV that can cause cognitive impairment, major depression and chronic pain. The team has gotten a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the work. Photo by Srijita Chattopadhyay/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services


University of Mississippi researchers are developing a novel treatment for the neurological complications of HIV, also known as neuro-HIV.

The National Institutes of Health awarded a five-year grant to Eden Tanner, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Jason Paris, research associate professor of pharmacology, to support this work. The duo received $436,000 for the first year of the project.

Antiretroviral therapies, which are the only existing treatment for HIV, are unable to sufficiently accumulate in the brain to target infected cells there. This renders them largely useless against the neurological effects of HIV, which can be debilitating.

These effects, such as cognitive impairment, major depression and chronic pain, are intensified if the virus progresses to AIDS.

“Retroviral therapies can stop the virus from being replicated in the rest of the body, but we can’t get those drugs into the brain in therapeutic concentrations – essentially, this virus goes unimpeded into the brain,” Tanner said. “This causes worsening neurological deficits and affects a large percentage of the patient population. Currently, there’s nothing we can do for it.”

Tanner’s lab at Ole Miss uses a method that allows nanoparticles to “hitch a ride” on red blood cells. Once the red blood cells reach the brain, the nanoparticles are programmed to self-destruct and release a drug. Her research has proven the technique to be successful.

Paris has studied HIV since he was a postdoctoral researcher. After hearing Tanner give a presentation on her work, he approached her with an idea to use the technology developed in her lab for neuro-HIV treatment.

“Her talk was great, and she asked if anyone had a use for these ionic liquid-coated nanoparticles that could target certain immune cells found in blood,” Paris said. “I told her this could solve a major problem in HIV if we could load them with antiretrovirals and target them to the immune cells of the brain.”

Eden Tanner (right), a UM assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, studies ionic liquids and their potential uses. She is working with Jason Paris, research associate professor of pharmacology, to use ionic liquids to create an innovative drug-delivery system. Photo by Srijita Chattopadhyay/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services


Tanner said their innovative approach could have a significant impact on the delivery of these drugs to the brain.

“What’s really unique is that we’re kind of using the human body’s natural transport mechanisms rather than trying to fight with them to deliver these drugs,” Tanner said. “The material I develop is called ionic liquids. This is what sticks the nanoparticles to the red blood cells to make this possible.

“Fifty percent of the nanoparticles that we deliver in this manner make it into the brain. Normally we get 1% to 2%, so this is a really big increase in delivery efficacy. I like to think about our work as being a fancy FedEx where the parcel gets there half of the time.”

Promising early data led the university to invest in patent protection around the core technology as well as its use against HIV and other diseases.

“Now this support from NIH provides a critical step in garnering the data that will be necessary for the long-term plan of taking this technology to first in-human trials,” Paris said.

The planned studies, in collaboration with Tulane University and its National Primate Research Center, will fund the extensive safety and pharmacokinetic testing that aims to demonstrate the materials are not harmful.

“This is actually the most exciting thing I’ve done in my career so far,” Paris said. “If successful, it could be transformative. This grant, in particular, will take us all the way from cells in a dish up to rodent models all the way to nonhuman primates. It’s a completely translational grant.”

The possibilities that this project represents are exciting, Tanner said.

“The goal is to eventually begin human trials,” she said. “What I’m most excited about is the opportunity to provide help to this patient population who is often vulnerable in other ways as well.

“That’s something that me and the rest of the team really hope to accomplish – to develop technology that improves people’s quality of life.”

Research reported in this press release was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01DA056875.

Tenure Track Faculty Position in Chemical Education

Posted on: August 17th, 2023 by nhammer

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, located in Oxford, Mississippi, invites applications for a tenure track faculty position at the ASSISTANT PROFESSOR level in the area of CHEMICAL EDUCATION to begin in August 2024. Areas of specialization could include but are not limited to pedagogy, inclusive teaching practices, STEM outreach, assessment and other themes related to inclusive pedagogy in chemistry. Applicants must have a Ph.D. in chemistry or a closely related field as well as relevant professional experience after obtaining the doctoral degree. 

The Department has 17 tenured and tenure-track faculty, 6 teaching faculty, and a vibrant graduate Ph.D. program. Construction of a new $175M STEM education facility on campus is underway that will foster interdisciplinary opportunities to fulfill our commitment to inclusive excellence in chemical education. The successful candidate is expected to establish a nationally recognized, externally funded research program; provide mentorship for graduate and undergraduate researchers; perform service to the department, college, and university; and demonstrate excellence in teaching. Review of applications will begin October 16, 2023 and will continue until an adequate applicant pool is established.

Applications must be submitted online ( or here for the direct link) and should include a cover letter, a current CV, research plans, and a teaching philosophy statement. Because the University of Mississippi is committed to building an inclusive and diverse university community as outlined in its Pathways to Equity plan (, applicants should specify within their application how their teaching, scholarship, and service will contribute to a diverse and inclusive community. During the online application process, applicants will be prompted to provide the names and email addresses of three professional references that will provide letters of recommendation. 

This tenure-track position is included in the University of Mississippi, College of Liberal Arts multi-year faculty cluster hire initiative. This initiative is designed to expand our understanding of multicultural competence in a number of areas including, among others to be named in future years: successful, effective, and ethical leadership; inclusive pedagogy in STEM; and Black intellectual thought in the Humanities. We seek scholars and scholarship with a focus on the experiences of African Americans and other underrepresented groups and attention to identities with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. The goal is to attract and support a diverse cohort of tenure-track scholars who will produce cutting-edge research, scholarship, and creative achievement around the theme of inclusive pedagogy in STEM. For more information and the list of the other positions included in this cluster hire, please visit the College of Liberal Arts website at

Tenure Track Faculty Position in Biochemistry

Posted on: August 17th, 2023 by nhammer

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, located in Oxford, Mississippi, invites applications for a tenure track faculty position at the ASSISTANT PROFESSOR level in the area of BIOCHEMISTRY to begin in August 2024.

Individuals with expertise in any area of biochemistry, including those complementing active research programs in the Department, are strongly encouraged to apply.

Applicants must have a Ph.D. and relevant postdoctoral experience in biochemistry or a closely related field. The Department has 17 tenured and tenure-track faculty, 6 teaching faculty, and a vibrant graduate Ph.D. program. Construction of a new $175M STEM education facility on campus is underway that will foster interdisciplinary opportunities to fulfill our commitment to inclusive excellence in chemical education. In addition, the Department houses the new $2M Nano-Bio ImmunoEngineering Consortium (NIEC), which boasts two staffed biomaterials and biomolecular characterization laboratories. Details of these facilities can be found on the departmental website by clicking here.

The successful candidate is expected to establish a nationally recognized, externally funded research program; provide mentorship for graduate and undergraduate researchers; demonstrate excellence in teaching; and perform service to the department, college, university, and community ( or here for the direct link.

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until an adequate applicant pool is established. Applications must be submitted online ( and should include a cover letter, a current CV, research plans, and a teaching philosophy statement.

Because the University of Mississippi is committed to building an inclusive and diverse university community as outlined in its Pathways to Equity plan (, applicants should specify within their application how their teaching, scholarship, and service will contribute to a diverse and inclusive community. During the online application process, applicants will be prompted to provide the names and email addresses of three professional references that will provide letters of recommendation.

The University of Mississippi has a Carnegie classification of R1 and is rated a “Great Colleges to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The University of Mississippi is an EOE / AA / Minority / Female / Vet / Disability / Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity / Title VI / Title VII / Title IX / 504 / ADA / ADEA employer.                                                                                                                       

Prof. Clark Receives DOE Early Career Award

Posted on: August 15th, 2023 by nhammer

The U.S. Department of Energy is recognizing the work of University of Mississippi chemistry professor Kensha Clark with an Early Career Award for her research into converting waste gases into valuable products.

Clark’s goal is to create a cost-effective, clean process for converting greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, into value-added offerings in a way that incentivizes industries and organizations to participate.

“As academics, we get a lot of interesting fundamental knowledge,” said Clark, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Often, the knowledge we gain does not translate directly to industrial change, because that change is not necessarily industrially viable.

Kensha Clark

“I am taking that industrial sensibility and applying it to a problem that affects us all: the reduction of greenhouse gases and chemical waste.”

Through her research, Clark is seeking ways to use inexpensive and sustainable metal ions to break apart the greenhouse gases and convert them to important commodity chemicals. For example, methane and carbon monoxide can be employed to make acetic acid, the major component of common household vinegar.

“The goal of the project is to find an industrially viable way or to develop an industrially viable pathway to change methane and carbon dioxide into value-added products,” she said. “Converting them into something useful will ultimately incentivize the capture and reuse of them.”

Researchers have been using expensive precious metals such as platinum to achieve the same effect. Clark believes the same can be achieved using earth-abundant – and much more affordable – metals such as copper, zinc and iron.

“Everything is chemistry,” she said. “I think it’s ultimately about doing it in a conscious way, like being cognizant of potential outcomes or the potential impact of what you’re doing will be.

“I think that there’s a way to address challenges that we have without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We can have technological scientific advances but also do them in a conscious way, thinking about the effects on our environment, the effects on society.”

The award program supports more than 80 early career researchers for five years at U.S. academic institutions, DOE national laboratories and Office of Science user facilities.

“The Department of Energy is committed to supporting rising stars in science – researchers who show great promise and a bright future,” said Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, director of the DOE Office of Science. “These individuals will be instrumental in meeting the big scientific challenges we face as a nation with innovation and passion.”

Clark joined the Ole Miss faculty in June 2022 after five years at the University of Memphis. She earned her bachelor’s from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her doctorate at the University of California at Irvine before receiving an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Boston College in 2011.

“We want to make sure that this planet can sustain life for generations to come,” she said. “It is not just about now; it is about the impact on the future.”

Click here for the original press release.

Department Welcomes Prof. Penghao Li

Posted on: August 5th, 2023 by nhammer

Penghao Li, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Dr. Penghao Li will joined the University of Mississippi Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry on August 1st. Dr. Li received his Bachelor of Science from Nankai University, China in 2011, a Masters of Science from Boston University in 2014, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry from the University of Oregon in 2017. He then served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University before joining the faculty at UM. His interests center around the synthesis of carbon nanoarchitectures, organic electronics, molecular recognition, self-assembly, general organic synthesis, and physical organic chemistry.

Dr. Li’s research group aims to gain precise control over the spatial arrangement of π-conjugated molecules by means of covalent and non-covalent linkages to create functional entities with tailored physical properties. They rely on physical organic and supramolecular principles to guide the design of novel molecular, supramolecular, and macromolecular materials with unique optoelectronic, magnetic, and recognition behaviors for the development of enabling technologies related to energy, sustainability, and human health. Additionally, they seek to implement high-throughput and automated synthetic methods based on sustainable and green protocols. Major thrusts of his research group include (1) precise synthesis of graphene-based carbon nanoarchitectures, (2) molecular recognition of curved polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and (3) discovery of porous materials though hierarchical self-assembly




Record Number of Ole Miss Students (Including Two BS Chemistry) Land NSF Research Fellowships

Posted on: June 13th, 2023 by nhammer

UM students selected for awards in the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program this year are (from left) Ethan C. Lambert, Emily Rasmussen, Mary Beth Vanlandingham, Stanford White and Sydney Wicks.

A record five University of Mississippi students have been selected for awards in the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.  These include two graduating senior Chemistry B.S. majors.

The 2023 fellows include three graduating seniors – Ethan C. Lambert, of Kossuth; Mary Beth Vanlandingham, from Florence; and Stanford White, of Brighton, Tennessee – and two graduate students, Emily Rasmussen, from Union Grove, Wisconsin; and Sydney Wicks, of Clinton.

The five-year fellowships provide three years of financial support. Each fellowship comes with a $37,000 annual stipend for the fellow, plus a $12,000 cost of education allowance to the college or university that the fellow chooses for their graduate program. 

Nationwide, only about 15% of applications result in awards each year.

“The NSF GRFP is a highly competitive fellowship,” said Annette Kluck, dean of the UM Graduate School. “The award enables students to pursue their research during their graduate study without having to work for an institution to help cover the costs of their degree program.”

Ethan Lambert has developed a successful research program as an undergraduate in chemistry, with seven papers published in scientific journals and nine citations. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services


Fellowship recipients are required to work toward a master’s or doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics – or STEM – fields at an accredited U.S. institution.

Two of the fellowship recipients, Lambert and Vanlandingham, graduated with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry. 

Lambert initially enrolled at Ole Miss as a chemical engineering major.

“Quickly in my ‘chem e’ classes, however, I learned that my thought process differed greatly from the other students in the classroom,” he said. “My desire to study fundamental processes led me to change my major to chemistry and begin studying fundamental chemical and physical interactions under Dr. (Nathan) Hammer.” 

Lambert’s undergraduate research produced seven papers published in scientific journals, an exceptional accomplishment because undergraduates often find that publishing their results can be difficult. He also has nine citations, a significant number for undergraduate work because citations mean another researcher has quoted from the published paper.

“I also have six more works in either submission to a journal or preparation for submission,” he said. “The most challenging part about research has been having time to do everything.

“Even in my last weeks at Ole Miss, I constantly thought of new experiments to run without any time to run them in. I just have to carry my ideas with me to the next chapter.”  

Mary Beth Vanlandingham plans to pursue a doctorate in environmental chemistry. She says one of the biggest challenges of being a scientist is figuring out how to learn from failure. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services


Lambert also received a Goldwater Fellowship in his time at Ole Miss.  He plans to continue his research at Florida State University, where he will pursue a doctorate in chemistry. He aims to study processes in materials that can be used for solar power applications. 

Vanlandingham reflected on the challenges that come with being a scientist.

“One of the most difficult, I think, is when something you’ve been working hard on doesn’t work out,” she said. “On the flip side of that, though, are two things: Firstly, you learn through failure.

“Secondly, the feeling you get, when you figure out the problem, more than makes up for the challenges.” 

The Tanner Lab, which focuses on potential uses for compounds called ionic salts, caught Vanlandingham’s attention at Ole Miss.

“I knew for a long time that I wanted to do chemistry research,” she said. “When I was able to look for a lab to join, I saw the research Dr. Eden Tanner and her lab were doing, and I thought it was neat.

“I especially like how it has a lot of potential to help improve a lot of people’s lives.” 

She plans to work toward a doctorate in environmental chemistry at Florida International University. 

White was undetermined about his career path toward the end of high school, but physics teachers at Tipton Rosemary Academy inspired his interest in math and engineering. He finds literature review, reading papers and “learning things from technical jargon I don’t understand yet” to be the most challenging aspects of research. 

Stanford White, who initially enrolled as a chemical engineering major before switching to mechanical engineering, plans to work toward a doctorate with focus on materials sciences and engineering at Ole Miss. Submitted photo


“I started out as a chemical engineering major but switched to mechanical engineering the day before spring break when COVID hit,” he said. “I ended up loving it and never looked back.”

White graduated in May with his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and is staying at UM to pursue a doctorate with focus on materials sciences and engineering. 

The two graduate students with research underway completed their bachelor’s degrees at other universities before coming to Ole Miss for graduate school.

Rasmussen completed her undergraduate work at Concordia University of Nebraska. She finds graduate research challenging, saying it does not usually go as expected. 

“As a planner and perfectionist, this can be hard to cope with at times, but with every ‘failure,’ I find the opportunity to learn, grow and adapt,” she said.

Emily Rasmussen is pursuing a doctorate in biomolecular sciences, which combines her passion for helping others with an interest in science. Submitted photo


Rasmussen is pursuing a doctorate in biomolecular sciences.

“This degree combines my passion for serving others with my interest in science by developing much-needed therapies for those suffering from illness,” she said. “The biomaterials space specifically excites me because of the potential to develop platform technologies that can be applied across a myriad of ailments.” 

Wicks completed his bachelor’s in psychology at Mississippi State University before transferring to UM for his doctoral program, including research in social psychology.

“For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in how people are impacted by their relationships with others and their sense of connection,” he said. “During my undergrad, I was able to get really involved in research relating to social support, peer bonding and close relationships while at Mississippi State University. 

Sydney Wicks is working toward a doctorate in psychology, including research in social psychology. His studies focus on how people are affected by their relationships and sense of connection. Submitted photo


“Now, I have extended my research to also examine experiences of feeling disconnected and excluded from others.” 

He finds that communicating research to varying types of audiences in clear and accessible ways can be challenging at times, especially when dealing with complex or technical information. 

All five students participated in one or more of the university’s incentive programs that encourage application for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. 

“A few years ago, the Graduate School decided to try to encourage more applications for the GRFP because a student cannot receive the fellowship if they do not apply,” Kluck said.

Robert Doerksen, associate dean of the Graduate School, worked with Jason Hale, director of research development in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, to develop seminars and application incentives.

“As we continue to elevate our research profile, it will be important for us to continue to grow the number of GRFP recipients on our campus,” Kluck said.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation, under Grant No. 2235036. 

Brandi Corbin Receives Outstanding Staff Member Award

Posted on: June 7th, 2023 by nhammer

Brandi Corbin, Stockroom Coordinator for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The University of Mississippi recognized 12 outstanding staff members on May 30th, 2023 at the annual Staff Appreciation Week Awards Ceremony.  Brandi Corbin, stockroom coordinator for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, received an Outstanding Staff Member Award.

Chancellor Glenn Boyce recognized Le’Tosha James, program manager in the Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery, as the Overall Outstanding Staff Member of the Year. James will have worked at Ole Miss for 10 years in November and earned her bachelor’s degree in general studies in 2021.  “Throughout the last decade, this year’s winner has distinguished herself as an exceptional staff member, leader and community member,” Boyce said. “Her contributions to the university and the wider community have been invaluable.”

Provost Noel Wilkin presented six other employees with Outstanding Staff Member Awards in their respective Equal Employment Opportunity categories. Winners were:

  • Paul Joseph Caffera, the university’s ombudsman, for EEO1
  • Melissa Rodriguez King, program manager for the School of Pharmacy, for EEO 3
  • Virginia “Ginger” Harrell, executive assistant to Associate Provost Rich Forgette, for EEO 4
  • Brandi Corbin, stockroom coordinator for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, for EEO 5
  • Allen Macon Steele, maintenance technician in Facilities Management, for EEO 6
  • Anna McKnight, supervisor of the university’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, for EEO 7

“This university is a family and we’re in this together,” said Deetra Wiley, president of the UM Staff Council. “We want to recognize you for who you are. You work hard, you’re a part of the university family and you deserve to be recognized.”

Charlotte Pegues, vice chancellor for student affairs, recognized the Campus Visits and Orientation team – Martin Fisher, associate director of admissions for the team; Abbey Hogan, coordinator of orientation programs; Grant McCullough, coordinator of orientation programs; Brooke Roberts, coordinator of campus visits; and Mason Tilghman, assistant director of admissions for campus visits – as winners of the seventh annual Daniel W. Jones Outstanding Team Service Award.

The award recognizes university teams that have shown dedication and outstanding contributions to campus. Runners-up for the award were the Master of Business Administration team and the Center for Student Success and First Year Experience team.

The university also recognized staff anniversary milestones by honoring staff who have worked on campus 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 30-plus years.

“As chancellor, I believe the success of the university depends on the strength of our people,” Boyce said. “And, here at the University of Mississippi, our people go ‘above and beyond’ and their efforts ripple far and wide.”

BS Chemistry Alumnus Su Nguyen named 2023 Schmidt Science Fellow

Posted on: June 6th, 2023 by nhammer

Suong Nguyen

Schmidt Science Fellows receive a stipend of $100,000 a year for up to two years of postdoctoral research in a discipline different from their Ph.D at a world-leading lab anywhere around the globe. They will attend a Global Meeting Series and training program that introduces them to new research ideas, techniques and questions; exposes them to a wide range of cutting-edge science, leading thinkers and institutions; and delivers tailored training in science communication, leadership and the facilitation of interdisciplinary research. The fellows will also receive mentoring from renowned and accomplished senior scientists.

Nguyen is currently a chemistry postdoc in the laboratory of Jeremiah Johnson at MIT. While in graduate school at Princeton, she developed light-driven, catalytic methodologies for organic synthesis, biomass valorization, plastic waste recycling and functionalization of quantum sensing materials. As a Schmidt Science fellow, she will now pivot from organic chemistry to nanomaterials, where she hopes to develop new strategies to achieve high levels of control over the structure and properties of nanomaterials and explore their potential for use in therapeutic applications.

The sixth cohort of Schmidt Science Fellows will join the lifelong community of Fellows, now totaling 145 members from 34 nationalities. 

Commenting on the new fellows, Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures and president of The Schmidt Family Foundation, said: “History provides powerful examples of what happens when scientists are given the freedom to ask big questions which can achieve real breakthroughs across disciplines. Schmidt Science Fellows are tackling climate destruction, discovering new drugs against disease, developing novel materials, using machine learning to understand the drivers of human health, and much more.  This new cohort will add to this legacy in applying scientific discovery to improve human health and opportunity, and preserve and restore essential planetary systems.”

The latest Fellows include the Program’s first nationals from Brazil, Ecuador, Nigeria, and Macedonia and the first Fellows to be nominated from Brazilian and Indian universities. The new cohort was selected based on their scientific achievements, talent, leadership characteristics and commitment to harnessing interdisciplinary science, as well as their potential to address global challenges, including climate destruction, neurodegenerative disease, and food insecurity and to improve mental health, drug discovery, energy security and more.

“I am proud to welcome the 2023 cohort to our global community of Schmidt Science Fellows. We know that ambitious interdisciplinary science is essential if we are going to tackle the critical challenges we face as human society,” said Megan Kenna, Executive Director of Schmidt Science Fellows. “Interdisciplinary approaches bring together different perspectives, people, techniques and insights, meaning we solve bigger problems, faster. I am delighted that this diversity of perspectives is reflected in our community, with 11 new nominating universities seeing Fellows selected, including our first from institutions in Brazil and India, and 14 nationalities represented in this year’s group.”

Schmidt Science Fellows is an initiative of Schmidt Futures, delivered in partnership with the Rhodes Trust. The Schmidt Science Fellows Program helps scientists solve bigger problems faster by identifying, developing, and amplifying the next generation of science leaders, building a community of scientists and supporters of interdisciplinary science, and leveraging this network to drive sector-wide change.

Founded by Eric (Princeton Class of 1976) and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. 

Click Here for the original Princeton story.

Prof. Tanner Receives NSF Career Award

Posted on: May 23rd, 2023 by nhammer
UM students conduct research on ionic liquids in Eden Tanner’s lab in Coulter Hall. Tanner has received an $850,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to fund the work, which could lead to targeted drug delivery systems. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

UM students conduct research on ionic liquids in Eden Tanner’s lab in Coulter Hall. Tanner has received an $850,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to fund the work, which could lead to targeted drug delivery systems. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services


The National Science Foundation has awarded Eden Tanner, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, an $850,000 CAREER award to further her study of salts called ionic liquids and how a coating of them enables selective hitchhiking on blood components.

Tanner’s five-year project, “Elucidating the Mechanism of Ionic Liquid-Coated Nanoparticle Interactions with Blood Components,” could lead to the development of targeted drug delivery systems that are safer and more effective for patients.

CAREER awards support early-career faculty who have both the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education, as well as to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. 

“This prestigious CAREER award highlights the quality of our younger faculty in the chemistry department as well as the exciting research programs in their labs,” said Greg Tschumper, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “We are very proud of Dr. Tanner for this significant accomplishment and fortunate to have her as a faculty member in the department.”

This is the eighth time the NSF has awarded an Ole Miss chemistry faculty member a CAREER award over the past dozen years.

The Tanner Lab works with nanoparticles, which are considered a strong possibility for ideal drug delivery systems due to their ability to deliver drugs effectively, safely and specifically. It also focuses on solving specific biomedical and bioengineering challenges.

Tanner uses a rigorous systematic investigatory style of physical chemistry to understand how materials interact with the human body. Ionic liquids are types of salt, but they are “bulky,” she said.

“They don’t form solids at room temperature, unlike typical salts like, for example, sodium and chloride, that fit cleanly together and make a crystal lattice,” she explained. “The materials that we’re working with don’t do that. So that frustration, that almost forbidden love story between the cations – the positively charged part – and the anion – the negatively charged part – is what makes them liquid at room temperature.

“We are kind of manipulating basic chemistry to really impact applications for human health.” 

Tanner’s team must construct ionic liquids in the lab because they are rare in nature. Researchers know of only one example.

Eden Tanner

Eden Tanner


“Two warring species of fire ants are involved, where one of the ants makes an ionic liquid out of the venom of the other ants to neutralize it,” Tanner said. “They basically are taking over the Southwestern region of the United States because of their ability to make ionic liquids out of their competitors’ venom.

“Broadly speaking, that is the only natural example of ionic liquids ‘in the wild,’ although I will say all the things that we mix to make ionic liquids are generally found either in the human body, in foodstuffs or other very safe kinds of materials.”

Tanner’s focus involves creating safe materials and eliminating many problems with side effects and toxicity. 

“The chemicals are naturally derived,” she said. “What that means is that if you put them into the human body, the human body recognizes those molecules as being part of the natural environment that it’s used to and not foreign.” 

The ionic liquids research includes collaboration with scholars from Louisiana State University, University of Minnesota, Mississippi State University and Stanford University. The award also will fund travel for Tanner’s team to the University of Michigan for further research.

The native Australian joined the Ole Miss faculty three years ago after earning her doctorate at the University of Oxford in England and completing her postdoctoral training at Harvard University. 

In 2022, Tanner was the sole recipient of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s annual $100,000 Research Starter Grant in Drug Delivery, which supports tenure-track faculty who are in the earliest stages of their research career.

The NSF encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups and persons with disabilities to apply for the CAREER award. Tanner extends the NSF expectations by staffing her lab to reflect those goals of enhancing diversity in STEM education. 

More than 70% of her team are women or nonbinary people, and 45% of them are people of color. They also reflect the interdisciplinary nature of her research approach.

“I have graduate students who have backgrounds in chemical engineering, bioengineering, molecular biology, physics, and of course, they are all here earning a Ph.D. in chemistry,” she said. “They have an interest in chemistry, but their backgrounds are really diverse.

“Engineers and scientists think about problems – the same problem – from different perspectives, and physicists do, too. I find having multiple perspectives in the room really strengthens the kind of questions we can ask, the experiments we are able to design and the ideas that are coming in.”

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2236629.

Alumnus Skiey Hardin (BS Forensic Chemistry 2015) is now a 2nd year resident and was featured at her residency recently

Posted on: May 10th, 2023 by nhammer

OB-GYN Resident’s Potential Is ‘Skiey’ High

A smiling doctor wearing a white coat in front of windows in a hospital corridor

Skiey Hardin changed her career ambitions from homicide detective to physician after graduating from college. There’s certainly no crime in that.

There’s also no crime in providing reproductive care to people who need it, she believes.

Hardin, who is in her second year as an OB-GYN resident at RUSH University, is passionate about reproductive rights and gender-affirming care, especially for people from underserved communities. She recently talked about the role her upbringing played in her career choice, the current state of abortion rights and the comradery among the OB-GYN residents at RUSH.

Tell us about your background.

Skiey Hardin: I was born and raised in New Augusta, Mississippi, a small town that has only one traffic light and lots of trees. I then went to the University of Mississippi, where I received an undergraduate degree in forensic chemistry. I always wanted to be a homicide detective or something similar.

But that changed after an internship at the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory, where I got to spend some time in the morgue. I thought, “This is really cool.” So I then wanted to work in forensic pathology, which you need a medical degree for. I switched gears and went to med school at the University of Mississippi, but I really hated pathology. I decided to remain open-minded at that point.

I really loved OB-GYN when I did my med school clinical rotations. That’s what I decided to pursue, and that’s how I ended up at RUSH.

What else motivated you to pursue a career in medicine?

SH: With OB-GYN, I was partly motivated by Mississippi’s high rate of teen pregnancy. I grew up in an area where there are a lot of teen pregnancies, and the majority of those teen moms are African American. And during medical school, a lot of the patients I saw on my rotation were also African American, so I felt a special connection to them. I come from an area where we don’t really talk about sexual education, so I felt like I owed it to my community to be in a specialty that allowed me to help educate them.

I saw a lot of myself in the patients I was seeing. I wasn’t a teen mom, but I related to their backgrounds. Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate, and I want to be part of changing that.

What are your thoughts on the current state of abortion rights?

SH: When Roe v. Wade was overturned, our OB-GYN group was very emotional and sad. But the saddest part was nobody was surprised.

It’s going to be a very challenging for providers across the nation to provide effective care to their patients. Physicians will be afraid to lose their license and won’t really know what to do. Their morale will be challenged.

I’m glad I’m currently in a state that prioritizes women’s health and finds it important to continue to provide abortion care. I’m glad I’m getting the training but sad that I might one day be in a state where I can’t provide these services. That’s really hard to explain to patients. Patients already feel very judged when they get an abortion. I think that judgment is going to increase, which is going to play a role on people’s mental health.

There are so many reasons that people get abortions. It’s not all just elective. We as a nation need to dig a little deeper and do more research into the need for abortion care before we write it off and judge it. Sometimes people need abortions to save their own lives, and we need to prioritize the lives of patients as much as we prioritize the life of a fetus.

Why did you choose RUSH for your residency training?

SH: I always thought I would stay in the South for my residency. But I have a friend who is also doing their residency in Chicago, and she convinced me to look more closely at the area. I was reluctant to live in a large city, but my virtual recruitment during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic changed my mind.

I had to rely a lot on social media to learn about different institutions, because med students couldn’t make in-person visits at the time. On RUSH’s OB-GYN Instagram page, there were photos of residents hanging out — not just at work but also outside of work. Hanging out at work is one thing, but if you’re hanging out outside of work, that’s a choice. I wanted to be in a program where the people I worked with felt like family. That’s something that sets our program apart. We’re really good friends.

And when I interviewed here, I talked to the program director, Sloane York. We got into a topic she was very passionate about. I was passionate about it too. I remember telling myself, “Wow, I really need to be in that program.”

How do you feel about Chicago now that you’ve been here for a bit?

SH: My very first time in Chicago was when I moved here for my residency, and it has been amazing. I’ve been able to meet so many friends. I have a dog, and this is a very dog-friendly city. There is always something going on in Chicago.

I feel like you can be whoever you want to be in this city. There’s not a lot of judgment here, and I love that. I’m very passionate about the LGBTQ community, and I want to work in gender-affirmative surgery. This is a perfect city to support my goals.

How do you see your career playing out after your residency?

SH: I plan to do a fellowship in pelvic reconstructive surgery. I really want to work with the LGBTQ community. And a big part of that is gender-affirmation surgery and care. I know RUSH is moving toward doing a lot more with affirming care, so I’m excited to be part of that.

What advice would you give to someone who might be following a similar path?

SH: I would tell them not to doubt yourself. I grew up with a lot of insecurities because I came from such a small town. I didn’t feel like my educational foundation was as strong as a lot of my peers even though I performed as well as everyone around me.

So always shoot for the stars. You are your biggest limitation, so if there’s something that you want to do, just go for it. It’s OK to fail. Just pick yourself back up and keep going. Lean on supportive people around you. I always wanted to figure things out by myself, so I didn’t utilize my support system as much as I should have.

And I would tell myself a million times that you’re amazing no matter what anyone ever says to you. As long as you think you’re amazing, then you are amazing. You will accomplish anything that you put your mind to because you’re special and one of a kind.