HMC Expert: Kerry Karukstis

Chemical Sensors, Chemistry, Faculty Development, Mentoring of Women Science Faculty, Nanostructures

Kerry Karukstis, PhD, Ray and Mary Ingwersen Professor of Chemistry, researches classes of molecules that have the ability to self-assemble into complex three-dimensional structures when placed in water and other solvents.

These 3-D configurations form using transient intermolecular forces (temporary interactions between molecules) and not permanent chemical bonds.

Karukstis is interested in those chemical building blocks that have amphiphilic character, that is, have distinct hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions within the molecule.

One of the exciting directions in her research is the development of controlled or “tunable” self-assembly whereby the rich array of aggregates formed in solution are controlled by such factors as the choice of solvent, temperature or pH.

Karukstis’ lab uses a novel and sensitive spectroscopic technique to characterize these systems. Findings will enable the optimization of specific aggregate structures for an extensive variety of applications such as biocompatible nanosensors, drug-delivery vehicles and stimuli-based devices such as smart windows.

Karukstis is also interested in faculty development, particularly for women science faculty at undergraduate institutions.

With support from the National Science Foundation, she has led an initiative to establish networks of “horizontal” mentoring alliances of senior women scientists at private liberal arts institutions to focus on professional development activities tailored to the specific needs of the participants and designed to enable senior women scientists to serve as effective leaders of institutional change on their own campuses and in their professional associations. She has organized a summit meeting of female chemistry and physics faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions that produced a report identifying career development issues for senior women academic scientists and disseminating best practices on horizontal mentoring strategies for academic women.

Karukstis now serves as an advisor to other faculty groups interested in this form of peer mentoring, including other NSF-funded projects involving women science faculty at all ranks of the professoriate.

Media Contact

Judy Augsburger

Media Appearances

Further Resources