Researcher Honored for Work in Biological Chemistry


Yi Lu, associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and biophysics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has been recognized twice recently for his pioneering work related to the development of DNA-based sensors for metal or radionuclide contaminants. His scientific efforts, supported in part by BER’s Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research Program (NABIR), earned him a first-runner-up certificate in the Elsevier Bioelectronics and Biosensors competition at the World Congress on Biosensors in Kyoto, Japan, in May 2002. His prize-winning work will be described in a special issue of the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics sometime in 2003. More recently, the philanthropic Howard Hughes Medical Institute awarded Dr. Lu a prestigious and sizeable grant in support of his science education efforts, designating him one of its first group of HHMI Professors. The full story of the HHMI award appeared in the 30 September 2002 issue of Chemical and Engineering News (pp. 32-33).

Dr. Lu’s NABIR project focuses on the use of combinatorial chemistry in the development of DNA biosensors for simultaneous detection and quantification of bioavailable radionuclides. He has identified several catalytic DNAs for use within small, field-portable sensors for various toxic heavy metals. These DNA biosensors are highly sensitive, selective, shelf-stable, and cost-effective; and have been demonstrated useful in both fluorometric and colorimetric analysis of natural and municipal waters. Further work will enable their use as on-site or remote analytical tools, to obtain quantitative measurements of contamination, in real time. This research is applicable both to DOE’s current bioremediation efforts and subsequent long-term stewardship.