Dr. Nizhou Han
SENIOR RESEARCH SCIENTIST
Dr. Nizhou Han is an accomplished scientist and a talented experimentalist who is highly respected by students, postdocs, and faculty alike. She began conducting research in our group in 2002 and has so far worked on diverse projects investigating carbonate and silica systems. Most of her studies have focused on biological mineralization, but she has also investigated silica glass dissolution for nuclear waste management and nonclassical pathways to crystal growth of calcium carbonates.
In addition to her own projects, she makes valuable contributions to other projects in our group, including studies of the physical basis for polymorph selection, energy barriers to cation binding on self-assembled monolayers, thermodynamic/kinetics controls on mineral nucleation, mineral dissolution, and mineral surface chemistry.
Dr. Han earned a Ph.D. in Soil Chemistry from Iowa State University in 1996 and has extensive experience as an analytical chemist. In our group, she is a lead author or co-author on numerous highly cited publications.
Brenna graduated from Appalachian State University in 2019 with a B.S. in Chemistry and a minor in Geology. There, she developed HPLC methods for quantifying organic pigments in NC heirloom apples.
At Virginia Tech, Brenna is co-advised by Dr. Dove and Dr. Kevin Edgar of Sustainable Biomaterials at VT. Her interdisciplinary Ph.D. research is focused on understanding how the organic matrix directs the timing and placement of inorganic crystals. Using novel synthesis techniques, she is preparing and characterizing tailored biomaterials. In experimental and computational studies, Brenna and collaborators are testing hypotheses for how functionalized polysaccharides affect the kinetics and energy barriers to calcite nucleation.
Christina's scientific career began in high school as a Junior Curator at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Here, she not only learned to hold and exhibit creatures of all types for outreach (from alligators and
rabbits to Madagascar hissing cockroaches) but it also forged a lifelong admiration for the natural world.
This set her up to conduct research at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill in the Pfennig Evolutionary Biology Lab studying toad ecomorphs before her love for chemistry drew her to research the 3D structure of mRNA in the Weeks Biochemistry Lab. She graduated from UNC with a BS degree in Polymer Chemistry. It was her dream to combine natural and polymer chemistry. At Virginia Tech, she is doing exactly that.
Christina is co-advised by Dr. Dove and Dr. Edgar of Sustainable Biomaterials at VT. Her research deals with the fundamental chemistry behind biosilicification. She uses novel synthetic methods to functionalize polysaccharides and test their effects on the energy barriers for silica nucleation. She hopes her bioinspired research will pave a way for novel biomaterial syntheses in the future.