Dr. Alexander Wei and the Wei research group is driven by the opportunity to discover new phenomena at the interface of chemistry, biology, and nanomaterials science. Synthesis plays a major role in the projects conducted by the Wei group; the ability to create novel nanostructures with molecular-level control creates opportunities for new physical insights and for applications in biology and medicine. Surface chemistry is also critical to their mission: the interfaces between organic and inorganic, nano and bio, and the laboratory and the real world is very often dictated by surface properties.
Several projects tackle urgent problems in human health, such as the development and targeted delivery of nanoprobes as contrast agents for enhanced diagnostic imaging, and as photothermal agents for the selective destruction of pathogens or tumor cells. The combination of therapy and diagnostics-- nowadays referred to under the portmanteau of "theragnostics"-- has become a paradigm in the rapidly emerging field of nanomedicine. The Wei group also uses the tools of nanotechnology to create chemically modified surfaces for selective pathogen capture, based on their high affinity for certain types of molecules found on the surfaces of our own cells. These nanopatterned surfaces are being installed and tested in portable sensors for the rapid detection of dangerous pathogens, some of which are highly infectious and drug-resistant.