Robin L. McCarley

Robin L. McCarley

Bachelor's Degree(s): Lake Forest College, 1986 
PhD: University of North Carolina, 1990 
PostDoc: NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas, 1990-1992  
For more information about McCarley Group publications and their impact, please see the ISI Database and Google Scholar 

Analytical, Surface, and Materials Chemistry
Barbara Womack LSU Alumni Professor (b. 1964)
LSU Faculty Fellow
B.A. Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, IL, 1986 
Ph.D., University of North Carolina, 1990 
National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas, 1990-1992
Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh Award, 1993
LSU College of Basic Sciences Research Award, 1998
LSU College of Basic Sciences Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2002
LSU Distinguished Faculty Award, 2003
Fellow of the AAAS, 2010
LSU Distinguished Research Master in Engineering, Science and Technology, 2011
Lake Forest College Richard W. Hantke Alumni Teacher Award, 2011

The general theme of the research carried out in our laboratories is the chemistry of organized/structured molecular assemblies, both in solution and on surfaces, and within living mammalian cells.  Our overarching goal is the ability to control the properties of materials by manipulating their structure on the molecular scale, so as to generate molecular and nanoscale materials that can provide quantitative and qualitative information on target analytes in biological and environmental systems.

For instance, we have as a major focus, the creation of fluorescence-based systems capable of reporting on the presence of active proteins (enzymes) and small molecules within cells.  Both molecular probes and those formed from nanoparticles are being developed and utilized in living biological systems.  For example, we have been at the forefront of designing, synthesizing, and using mammalian cell-permeable molecular probes whose fluorescence signature is changed upon highly selective interaction with an intracellular reductase intimately associated with hard-to-treat cancers, namely, NAD(P)H:quinoneoxidoreductase isozyme 1 (NQO1).  To date, we have developed probes that rapidly enter cells and have their fluorescent signal either turned on from a dormant state or altered so that their emission shifts to another energy.  As a result of our careful design of the turn-on probes, we have been able to demonstrate unprecedented differentiation of human cancer cells expressing high levels of active NQO1 from those that do not possess high enzyme activity levels.  Our turn-on probes are being used in pre-clinical animal studies to establish their potential application in fluorescence-guided surgical resection of micrometastases, a leading cause of disease recurrence.  

Also, our group is interested in constructing stimuli-sensitive molecular architectures based on dendrimers, surfactants (liposomes and micelles), and polymers that can be used to trap, contain, and release molecules; through the use of redox-responsive and temperature-responsive functionalities at the exterior of dendrimers and liposomes, we are able to regulate the transport of materials from the interior of the host system to the exterior, surrounding solution.  In addition, other redox-responsive or temperature-responsive moieties can be placed on a variety of materials for use in chemical sensing applications; see a Chemical and Engineering News article highlighting our work in this area. This project involves the use of a variety of analytical methods, such as NMR relaxation techniques, fluorescence and infrared spectroscopies, and synthetic strategies for making the host systems. Recent results indicate that such materials will be useful in the delivery of molecules in the body and in miniaturized analytical systems. In addition, we have been exploring the properties of the stimuli-responsive moeities using MALDI-MS, in particular, their end groups and molecular weight.   

In another area, we are interested in controlling the surface properties of polymer substrates used in the fabrication of microanalytical devices by immobilizing nanometer-thick layers of organic and biological molecules on the surface of the plastic substrate; such surface modification protocols are of great importance to microanalytical devices geared towards genomic, proteomic, and environmental analyses.  This project is a collaborative effort with the Soper Group at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina (Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry), as well as groups in Mechanical Engineering at LSU.  In addition, we are working with several groups in physics, biology, and engineering to build nanoscopic sensors and pumps/actuators. 

In addition to these more applied directions, we are interested in understanding the fundamentals of adsorbate interactions (alkanethiols, isocyanides) with metal surfaces (Pt, Au, Ag, Cu) and the interactions of metals (evaporated, electrolessly deposited, nanoclusters) with "sticky" (chemically modified so as to present a binding ligand to the depositing metal) surfaces.  For example, we are looking at ways to photopattern surfaces so that metal deposition is confined to a given area (micrometer to nanometer square areas).  Both areas are of interest to the microelectronics industry, as well as the microanalytical device and sensor communities.  

Related to this binding of metals on surfaces is the template-assisted formation of metal nanoclusters and metal oxides using dendrimers as the template.  We have recently shown that ~1 nm diameter Cu nanoclusters and 3-5 nm diameter CuO and NiO nanoparticles can be made by reduction of M(II)-amine-dendrimer complexes.  By varying the M(II):dendrimer ratio, we have been able to make extremely low size dispersity metal and metal oxide nanoparticles.  This work is being used to lay the groundwork for future studies of bi-metallic clusters and metal oxide nanoparticles that can be used for catalysis applications, including those associated with environmental concerns.  This project is a collaborative effort with Professors Poliakoff, Cook, and Dellinger and their students and involves the use of our synchrotron radiation source, CAMD. 

Students within the McCarley Group gain a great deal of experience in a number of areas in chemistry, biology, and materials science due to the diverse, interdisciplinary nature of the research efforts.  For example, you are apt to find someone doing organic synthesis of a fluorescent probe one day, and then discover them carrying out multi-photon fluorescence microscopy on living cell microtumors using said probe the next day!  Or you might find someone making a microdevice, and then a few minutes later see that they are performing photopatterning of the plastic surface to immobilize proteins or DNA.  Thus, the student who carries out research in the McCarley Group will become well-versed in a variety of topics related to biological, analytical, physical, inorganic, macromolecular, and organic chemistries.  In addition, their research efforts are disseminated in journals covering a broad spectrum of disciplines, ranging from chemical biology to macromolecular systems.

For a measure of the impact McCarley Group publications have had, please see the ISI Database and Google Scholar

Publications from the McCarley Laboratories - Please see the following link for publications available through the NCBI PubMed database: McCarley RL[au]


As a result of their training, students in the McCarley Group have gone on to outstanding careers in chemistry and materials science, as noted below.  For a historical take on the 28+ PhDs and 10+ postdoctoral fellows who have been trained in the McCarley Group, please look at the Academic Tree Project for the McCarley Group. 

  • Dr. John Peanasky is a scientist at Corning in Corning, NY and is carrying out work on optically-based biosensors.

  • Dr. Robert Willicut ('97) is a scientist in the Health and Beauty Care Division at Proctor and Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, and is working on polymer rheology and surface analysis of non-traditional materials.

  • Dr. Tamara Nauman has been an Instructor at LSU since 1997.

  • Dr. Song Lin ('00) is currently employed in the Baton Rouge area.

  • Dr. Cory Schomburg ('00) is on the staff of Perkin-Elmer.

  • Dr. Pierre Floriano ('01) is at NeoTherma Oncology in Houston, TX.

  • Dr. Sonya Caston-Pierre ('01) is a faculty member at Texas Southern University in Houston, TX.

  • Dr. Alyssa Henry ('01) is a staff scientist at ARA in Virginia, a position she obtained after an NRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at NIST with Dr. Laurie Locascio.

  • Dr. Charles O. Noble ('01) is currently at ZoneOne Pharma in San Francisco, CA. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in San Francisco, CA where he worked on liposome-based drug release agents.

  • Dr. Jed Aucoin ('04) is a scientist at Dow Chemical in Hahnville, LA. He previously worked for Martin-Marietta in their Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where he worked on materials characterization for the US Space Shuttle Project.

  • Dr. Bikas Vaidya is currently a scientist at Lynntech at their facility in Bryan, TX where is working on a variety of projects dealing with fuel cells. He received his Ph.D. under the direction of Marc D. Porter at Iowa State University.

  • Dr. Amy Donaldson Morara ('05) is Senior Chemist for Leidos, a spin-off of SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) in Arkansas.

  • Dr. Mariah J. McMasters ('06) was a Scientist at Alberto Culver in Jonesboro, AR, then she moved to Owen Biosciences in Baton Rouge prior to assuming her most recent role at Spectro Chem.

  • Dr. Suying Wei ('06) was a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Michael Sailor at the University of California at San Diego working in biomaterials, and she is now an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX.

  • Dr. Eden Pacsial-Ong (PD, 2005-2006) works as a Senior Scientist at Karyopharm Therapeutics in Boston, MA.

  • Dr. Rebecca Brauch ('06) was a Scientist at the Clorox Company in Pleasanton, CA working on mass spectrometry.

  • Dr. Henry Wiggins ('07) is a Scientist at Halliburton in Oklahoma where he is working on analysis methods applied to the petrochemical industry.

  • Dr. Guofang Chen (PD, 2004-2007) was a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and is now a faculty member at St. John's University.

  • Dr. Winston Ong (PD, 2004-2007) was a Scientist at TransForm Pharmaceuticals (a Johnson and Johnson Company) working on early drug development, and he then became employed at Kala Pharmaceuticals, a new start-up pharmaceutical company in Boston.

  • Dr. Yuming Yang ('08) is a Scientist at Halliburton in Houston, TX and is involved in developing surfactant systems.

  • Dr. Jowell Bolivar ('08) was a Scientist at Fuji Health Science in New Jersey, moved to The Wright Group in Lafayette, LA, and then he became a Senior Scientist at GNC Nutra.

  • Dr. Elizabeta Mitran ('09) is a Project Director with the Louisiana Center for Transportation Safety, and previously was the Training Core Coordinator for the LSU NIEHS Superfund Research Program.

  • Dr. Jennifer S. Macalindong De Guzman ('10) is an Instructor at the University of Louisiana; she was previously a postdoctoral fellow at Pennington Biomedical Research Center with Dr. Indu Keterpal.

  • Dr. Nicole Hollabaugh Carrier ('11) is a faculty member at the University of North Georgia.

  • Dr. Warren Solfiell ('11) was a faculty member at Keene State College, and before he could complete the tenure process, he died unexpectedly in 2015.
  • Dr. Jerimiah Forsythe ('12) is a Scientist at Schlumberger, a position he assumed after being a postdoctoral fellow at Rice University in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

  • Dr. Fabi Mendoza ('12) is a Scientist at Ventana Pharmaceuticals in Tucson, AZ; she was previously a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Craig Aspinwall at the University of Arizona.  

  • Dr. William C. Silvers ('13) is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, carrying out work in cancer imaging.

  • Dr. Suraj Hettiarachchi ('14) is a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue University working with Prof. Philip S. Low on cancer drug synthesis.  

  • Dr. Rasika Nawaminage ('15) is a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue University in the Department of Biochemistry.

  • Dr. James E. Winter ('15) is a Chemist at Celgene in New Jersey working on formulation and analytical method development.
  • Dr. C.J. Dubois, Jr. (BS at LSU, '98) is a scientist at DuPont in Texas, working on a variety of polymer projects. He received his Ph.D. under the direction of Professor John Reynolds at the University of Florida, and was an LSU undergraduate researcher.

  • Dr. Stefanie M. Chaplin was in the chemical, bio-, and materials engineering department at Arizona State University from 1998 to 2004 (PhD, 2004) where she studied Si wafer processing techniques, a position she held prior to her employment at Intel in Arizona.

  • Benjamin Boussert (BS at LSU, '99) was a graduate student in the group of Paul Alivisatos at the University of California at Berkeley. Tragically, Ben perished in an automobile accident on July 16, 2005 after participating in the graduation exercises in May of 2005.