Assistant Professor - Analytical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Biophysical Chemistry
Research and/or Creative Works
Conventional microscopy techniques probe biological processes by imaging the location of molecules in time and space. These techniques, however, lack the ability to reveal the physiochemical nature of how these molecules dynamically interact with their local environment. This knowledge is crucial for not only understanding biological functions, but also establishing the molecular basis for human diseases.
To gain a molecular understanding of biological processes, my group is developing a technique that we call Raman Chemical Imaging. This technique combines the chemical specificity of Raman spectroscopy, which probes environmentally-sensitive molecular vibrations, with sophisticated coherent microscopy techniques. This method enables us to image the structural dynamics and interactions of biomolecules in their native cellular environment. We are interested in broadly applying Raman Chemical Imaging to investigate how living cells regulate protein folding, how protein aggregates cause neurodegeneration, and how polymer-based nanoparticles deliver nucleic acids for use in gene therapies.
- Van Bruggen, C.; Punihaole D.; Keith, A.; Schmitz, A.J.; Tolar, J.; Frontiera, R.R.; Reineke, T.M. “Quinine Copolymer Reporters Promote Efficient Intracellular DNA Delivery and Illumination Protein-Induced Unpackaging Mechanism.” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2020: 117(52), 32919–32928.
- Punihaole, D.; Workman, R.J; Upadhyay, S.; Van Bruggen, C.; Schmitz, A.J.; Reineke, T.M.; Frontiera, R.R. “New Insights into Quinine-DNA Binding using Raman Spectroscopy and Molecular Dynamics Simulations.” J. Phys. Chem. B. 2018: 122(43), 9840 – 9851.
- Punihaole, D.; Jakubek, R.S.; Workman, R.J; Asher, S.A. “Interaction Enthalpy of Side Chain and Backbone Amides in Polyglutamine Solution Monomers and Fibrils.” J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2018: 9(8): 1944 – 1950.
- Punihaole, D.; Jakubek, R.S.; Workman, R.J; Marbella, L.E.; Campbell, P.; Madura, J.D.; Asher, S.A. “Monomeric Polyglutamine Structures that Evolve into Fibrils.” J. Phys. Chem. B. 2017: 121(24): 5953 – 5967.
- Punihaole, D.; Workman, R.J.; Hong, Z.; Madura, J.D.; Asher, S.A. “Polyglutamine Fibrils: New Insights into Antiparallel ß-sheet Conformational Preference and Side Chain Structure.” J. Phys. Chem. B. 2016: 120(12): 3012 – 3026.
- Punihaole, D.; Hong, Z.; Jakubek, R.; Dahlburg, E.; Geib, S.; Asher, S.A. “Glutamine and Asparagine Side Chain Hyperconjugation-Induced Structurally Sensitive Vibrations.” J. Phys. Chem. B. 2015: 119(41): 13039 – 13051.
- Punihaole, D.; Jakubek, R.S; Dahlburg, E.M.; Hong, Z.; Myshakina, N.S; Geib, S.; and Asher, S.A. “UV Resonance Raman Investigation of the Aqueous Solvation Dependence of Primary Amide Vibrations.” J. Phys. Chem. B. 2015: 119(10): 3931 – 3939.
Awards and Recognition
2018 – Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (Selected by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)
Areas of Expertise and/or Research
Analytical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Biophysics, Raman Spectroscopy, Stimulated Raman Imaging, Advanced Biological Microscopy Technique Development, Neurodegenerative diseases, Protein Folding, Characterization of Polymer/Nanoparticle Drug and Gene Delivery.
- B.S. Molecular Biology — University of Pittsburgh, 2005-2009
- Ph.D. Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology — University of Pittsburgh, 2009-2016
- Postdoctoral Fellow — University of Minnesota, 2016-2020