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Two new professors join Department of Chemistry

Monday, June 6, 2011 - 2:56pm

In an economic climate in which many science departments are struggling to hire new faculty, the Department of Chemistry was able to hire two highly sought-after tenure track faculty members in the field of inorganic chemistry.

Shanta Dhar and Tina Salguero have spent this academic year settling in and getting their labs up and running. While UGA—and the American South—are new to both, they express excitement about their futures in research and teaching at UGA’s venerable chemistry department.

“We are simply delighted to have Tina and Shanta on our faculty,” said department head and professor Jon Amster. “We look forward to working with them as colleagues in research, and our students will surely benefit from their classes in the coming years.”

Both started in fall 2010, and by late winter, they have equipped and staffed their laboratories.

“I grew up in a small town in India’s West Bengal,” said Dhar, “and because my father is a mathematician, I was always interested in science. I wanted to be a professor from my earliest memories.”

What came as a surprise, however, was her long journey to the U.S. for two postdocs after earning her Ph.D. at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. “Surprise,” may be too strong a word, though, since she admits to rigorously planning everything. Because her graduate work was in the area of bioinorganic chemistry, she came to Johns Hopkins to work on her first postdoc with Marc M. Greenberg, developing fluorescent sensors for the detection of DNA lesions. In 2007, she joined noted professor Stephen J. Lippard at MIT to focus on nanocarrier-mediated delivery of platinum-based drugs for their potential use in treating cancer.

“I had wanted to work with Dr. Lippard for some time, and I was determined to make it happen,” said Dhar, smiling. “I’ve always set goals and then followed them, doing my best to achieve what I set out to do.”

While she was aware of Lippard’s reputation for work at the interface of inorganic chemistry and biology, she wasn’t prepared for the new direction her work took there. She had always wanted to be involved with cutting-edge research, but while working in Lippard’s lab, she began to realize she wanted to do research that can be used by people, especially those seriously ill.

For that reason, she has set up the Nanotherapeutics Research Laboratory as part of her work at UGA—developing tools and methods to treat serious illnesses such as cancer using nanotechnology.  

“We are focused on interdisciplinary approaches for drug development,” said Dhar. “Our lab strategically places research at the interface of chemistry, biology and nanotechnology. Our lab will develop technologies that use a combination of conventional methods of cancer treatment and immunotherapy in a single nanoparticle platform to provide powerful low-cost tools to treat cancer in humans.”

Just married, her husband Nagesh Kolishetti is a scientist in the lab of Geert-Jan Boons at UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.

Tina Salguero has also known since high school that her future lay in science. She grew up on Long Island, but her father worked in Manhattan at Columbia University at its pioneering computer laboratories, so she grew up around science and academia. Summer programs at the SUNY-Stonybrook strengthened her love of lab sciences, and by the time she was a freshman at Columbia, her own career lay clearly before her.

When she graduated (summa cum laude) from Columbia in 1997, Salguero headed across the country to work on her Ph.D. in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, working with Nobel laureate Professor Robert Grubbs. After a postdoc at UC-Santa Barbara and several years as a researcher with HRL Laboratories in Malibu, Calif., Salguero joined UGA’s chemistry department last summer.

“Our research group here at UGA focuses on hybrid materials that incorporate nanosheet components,” said Salguero. “Nanosheets are important in science for many reasons. They are isolable and can be manipulated using solution-based methods, which allows them to be assembled in a controlled fashion. They can then be used as building blocks for various advanced functional materials. Some of our targeted applications include energy storage material for batteries and capacitors; barrier materials for electronics; and electrically conductive materials for fuel cells or as current-dissipating materials on aircraft to provide protection against lightning strikes.”

She and her husband are the parents of three-year-old Isabella and are expecting another daughter in July—to be named Olivia—so her days are busy indeed.

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