Christopher was born and raised in Rochester, NY. After high school, Christopher served as an aviation electronics and weapons technician in the U.S. Navy. Following active duty, Christopher went on to earned his B.S. in Computer Engineering at California State University, East Bay, followed by his M.S. in Chemical Engineering at San Jose State University. During this time, he spent five years working in the Energy Nanomaterials division at Sandia National Laboratories, developing novel hydrogen storage systems. Christopher left Sandia in 2017 to pursue his Ph.D. in Chemistry at UCLA, where he now works under Hosea Nelson to develop new techniques for electron crystallography. Since coming to UCLA, Christopher has been named an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, a Tillman Scholar, and has held a visiting researcher appointment at Caltech, where he has helped lead efforts toward integrating MicroED for chemical analysis in collaboration with the laboratory of Brian Stoltz.
What is your BioPACIFIC MIP Research Project?
Structure influences function is one of the central tenets of chemistry, biology, and life itself. Understanding the structural characteristics of molecules can thus help toward developing new medicines for fighting disease or new materials for sustainable energy. The emerging field of electron crystallography has now given chemists a powerful tool to study the molecular structure of chemical compounds previously inaccessible through traditional crystallographic techniques. My research aims at developing and refining the MicroED workflow such that it is accessible to the practicing chemist much as X-ray crystallography is now. In addition to workflow optimization, I am also interested in studying the structural characteristics of novel organic materials and polymers to better understand how their molecular structure influences their properties on the macroscale.
What Excites You About the NSF BioPACIFIC MIP?
I am particularly excited to contribute to and engage with interdisciplinary research teams to solve challenging problems. My own background and has been highly interdisciplinary and it has benefited me tremendously throughout my research career. The BioPACIFIC MIP provides an opportunity to connect with fellow scientists from a broad range of backgrounds to learn from one another and collaborate on impactful research. As research problems continue to increase in complexity, cultivating a strong network of interdisciplinary scientists will be imperative for remaining at the forefront of materials science and innovation.
Do you collaborate with other BioPACIFIC MIP Faculty?
Over the past few years, I have been working closely with Jose Rodiguez's group to develop and integrate MicroED for small molecule crystallography. This partnership has been very rewarding and has allowed me to make significant progress towards my research efforts in electron crystallography. Innovations in MicroED and structural analysis from the Rodiguez lab will undoubtedly continue to play an important role in understanding and resolving complex and molecular structures.
Are you planning to collaborate with other BioPACIFIC MIP faculty?
I believe serendipitous discussions help drive new ideas and innovations. For this reason, I look forward to engaging the BioPACIFIC faculty to identify new scientific challenges. The field of electron crystallography is a vast new frontier in the chemical sciences, and I am excited to contribute my experience toward the diverse research efforts of the BioPACIFIC community.
Tell us about your group’s research and how it relates to BioPACIFIC MIP
Research in the Nelson Lab focuses on leveraging fundamental concepts in weakly coordinating anion chemistry and main group catalysis to discover novel reactions in organic synthesis. We hope to address long-standing challenges in organic chemistry through the use of reactive silicon species, boron clusters, and complex phosphines. This interest in reactvity was thus the driving force for our adaptation of the MicroED technique as a tool for studying reactive intermediates. Since our initial demonstration of this technique for small molecule crystallography, we have been at the forefront of it’s development as a fully viable analytical tool for chemical analysis. Our lab has since made significant progress in applying MicroED to organometallics, organic materials, and natural products. Efforts are currently underway to explore new and unique chemical structures as well as develop improved workflow and automation procedures for crystallographic data collection.