Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Ph.D., Caltech, 2011; B.A. Cornell College, 2005
Dr. Shanata is an organic chemist who specializes in chemical biology. His lab’s research focuses on the application of organic chemistry to advance understanding in several fields: (1) the role that cell membranes play in modulating how drugs work, (2) how specific lipids and cholesterol impact the distribution and function of membrane proteins, (3) the distribution of a class of carcinogens (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in the environment and biological systems, (4) separation (partitioning) of cellular components including enzymes.
One key technique used is the patch clamp, which allows for single molecule studies of ion channels. Ion channels are membrane proteins through which ions flow, thereby producing a measureable electrical signal. This signal is also used in detailed analysis to develop kinetic models that describe the full and partial activation of ion channels. Changes between full and partial activation are of interest because small molecules, such as anesthetics, can produce these changes to varying extents. His lab’s experiments also measure partition coefficients in various biphasic systems and relate these measurements to molecular properties such as dipole moment, cation-pi binding energy, and hydrogen bond ability. This facilitates an understanding of the role that these properties play in the effectiveness of small molecule therapeutic treatments including a potential treatment for essential tremors.