James Rusling

Position Department / Business Unit
Professor, Chemistry & Pharmacology Department of Chemistry
Institution Disciplines
University of Connecticut Chemistry
City State / Provence
Storrs Connecticut
Country Website
U.S.A. link
(860) 486-2981

Professor Rusling's research focuses on interdisciplinary applications of analytical, biological, surface, environmental, and synthetic chemistry. We attempt to apply our knowledge of chemistry to help solve some of the problems of our society. Applications are directed toward environmental health, biological chemistry, biosensors, and 'green' chemical synthesis. We have ongoing research projects in toxicity sensors, biosensors, enzyme-containing membranes, electrochemical catalysis, biosensors for health risks and environmentally benign synthesis.

A major area of research in our group involves development of biologically active surface coatings for biosensors. Current applications include toxicity sensing using DNA-polyion coatings grown layer-by-layer, and enzyme films for electrochemically driven enzymology. This work is funded by the National Institutes of Health. We are essentially designing ordered supramolecular bioactive membranes on electrodes for applications to biosensors and bioreactors.Recent viable systems feature layered films composed of enzymes, polyions and DNA, and lipid-protein films similar to those in living membranes. A major thrust of this work is to develop general sensor screening techniques for toxicity of new chemicals and their metabolites. A newly planned application will be sensing of hazardous microorganisms that could be used in bioterrorism.

A wide variety of techniques are used to characterize these films and to validate the sensor technology, including cyclic and pulsed voltammetry, HPLC, LC-MS/MS, Quartz Crystal Microbalance, Atomic Force Microscopy, Impedence Spectroscopy, Capillary Electrophoresis with laser induced fluorescence detection, linear and circular dichroism, polarized reflectance FT-IR, ESR, and NMR spectroscopies.

Our group has pioneered research at the interface between catalytic electrochemistry and surfactant chemistry. We have used surfactant aggregates for designing and controlling electrochemical catalytic synthesis. This area of research which was initiated by our group in the mid-1980s. Our methods allow catalytic electrolyses of nonpolar compounds to be done in water, avoiding toxic organic solvents. On a bench scale, electrochemical catalysis in microemulsions has been successfully applied to catalytic dechlorination of commercial polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) and to carbon-carbon bond formation and cyclizations. This appraoch may be important in future cleanup of toxic waste dump sites, and in clean processes for fine chemical production.

Microemulsions are clear, stable mixtures of surfactant, oil, andwater that provide less toxic and less costly replacements for organic solvents in chemical reactions and in other applications. Our group has also used microemulsions of oil, water, and surfactant to bring together catalysts and reactants of very different solubilities. We showed that selective binding of reactants to microemulsion aggregates can be used to alter relative reactivities in these microheterogeneous fluids.

Microemulsions are currently being developed for environmentally friendly synthesis of organic compounds. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation. We have recently used microemulsions to achieve stereospecific synthesis and to control reaction pathways and rates. Techniques used include electrochemistry, HPLC, GC-MS, NMR, many types of spectroscopy. Majorinstrumentation in the chemistry department and at Uconn's Environmental Research Institute and Institute of Materials Science are utilized.

Another line throughout our work has been development of computerized modeling methods for analysis of chemical data, and for modelling of macromolecular processes relevant to our sensors. Work in the early 1980s showed that pattern recognition combined with nonlinear regression analysis could be used for automated decision making. Applications involved automatic computerized expert systems for elucidation of electrochemical reaction mechanisms and for finding the number and values of luminescent decay constants in time resolved fluorescence. Later work combined digitalsimulations of electrochemical catalysis with regression analysis and showed that the method could be used to accurately estimate second order catalytic rate constants almost to the diffusion limit. Our recent work in this area strives to construct models based on Marcus electron transfer theory to obtain a complete dynamic and energetic description of electron transfer reactions involving redox centers in proteins. In 1996, we published a tutorial volume summarizing modern methodology in this area.


Ph.D., Clarkson University, Chemistry, 1979; B.S., Drexel University, Chemistry, 1969

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