The Plaxco Group is a highly interdisciplinary research group in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara, headed by Prof. Kevin W. Plaxco. We build bioanalytical sensors and investigate protein biophysics, among other basic and applied research avenues.
A major innovation from the Plaxco group is the Electrochemical Aptamer-Based sensor platform. It is the first ever real-time, high-frequency molecular sensing technology that is both: (1) selective enough to work in situ in the living body and (2) independent of the chemical reactivity of its targets, thus rendering it is generalizable. Using this approach, we have demonstrated the seconds or even sub-second resolve measurement of multiple drugs, metabolites and biomarkers in the plasma (veins), cerebrospinal fluid (brains) and interstitial fluid (subcutaneous space) of live rats.
Continuous, real-time molecular measurements in the living body
The high-frequency, real-time information provided by EAB sensors provides unprecedented opportunities to measure, understand, and even control molecules in the living body. For example, using the real-time concentration information provided by EAB sensors we have demonstrated closed-loop, feedback-control over multiple therapeutics, ensuring that drugs characterized by dangerously narrow therapeutic windows or highly complex, time-varying optimal plasma time courses can be delivered safely and effectively.
Biomolecules on surfaces
Biomolecules interact with surfaces in many and varied ways. For example, while biomolecules frequently associate with -and remain folded and functional on- surfaces in the cell, they tend to unfold on, adhere to, and lose function at artificial surfaces, significantly reducing the extent to which we can blend biomolecules with such surfaces to create new technologies. Thus motivated, we have developed novel methods for measuring the extent to which interactions with well-defined macroscopic surfaces alter the stabilities of specific biomolecules. Using this information we are developing quantitative, predictive theories of protein-surface interactions that we believe will significantly advance our understanding of biology and our ability to employ biomolecules in artificial biotechnologies.
Meet the members of the Plaxco Group. Click on icons for specific contact information, and research projects. Main lab contact can be found here.
Director of the Center for Bioengineering
(805) 893 5558
My lab studies protein folding and biomolecular engineering. Our goal in these endeavors is both an improved understanding of the folding process and an ability to apply this rapid, highly specific, highly cooperative self-assembly process to the development of nano-scale electronic sensors and adaptable materials.
Postdocs and Research Fellows
Ph.D. '21 in Neuropharmacology from University of Toronto
Adapting and implementing biosensors for in vivo in brain measurement of drugs and neurotransmitters in behavioral models of addiction.
Ph.D. '21 in Electrical Engineering from Aalto University, Finland
My research focuses on finding different approaches to increase the stability of E-AB sensors in the in vivo environment. These approaches include employing different electrochemical interrogation methods, implementing antifouling agents or coatings into the sensor design and studying alternative substrate materials and linking chemistries for the sensor structure.
Otis Williams Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. '21 in Applied Physics from Rice University
I am developing a mechanistic understanding of the environment-driven drift of implanted electrochemical aptamer-based sensors to improve EAB sensor overall sensitivity and response to target, miniaturize the sensors while limiting signal loss, and understand the temporal fluctuations of endogenous targets in vivo.
Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. '17 in Chemical Sciences from University of Rome Tor Vergata
My research focuses on the design and characterization of novel optical and electrochemical DNA-based devices for biomarkers detection and to control of cell-free systems. I'm also re-engineering aptamer-based sensors for both ex-vivo and in-vivo measurements of diagnostically important molecules.
Otis Williams Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. '19 in Chemistry from the University of British Columbia
I am researching involving the reduction of signal loss in electrochemical aptamer-based sensors and looking at alternative calibration methods impervious to signal loss. I will then be working towards measuring endogenous targets in the living body.
Statistics and Applied Probability
My primary research focus is developing new statistical methods to meaningful and interesting problems in the applied sciences, promoting cross-disciplinary research between different fields. More recently, I have been evaluating the adequacy of commonly used pharmacokinetic compartment models on time-dense pharmacology datasets generated by others in the group.
Psychology and Brain Sciences
My interests involve adapting EAB sensors for subcutaneous application, in hopes of creating a viable, minimally invasive platform for the detection of both therapeutics and recreational drugs in vivo and to pave the route towards clinical deployment.
I am working on developing new E-AB sensors towards targets of our interest, which include Li+, tryptophan and cocaine. I also am working on systematic methods to enhance the E-AB sensor performance. Specifically, I do this by correlating measurements of circular dichroism with E-AB sensor electrochemical signals. The final goal of my research is to apply E-AB sensor to living animal research and in the future clinical research.
Murat Kaan Erdal
Murat Kaan Erdal
Electrical and Computer Engineering
My research focuses pharmacokinetics models and how to use them. I am using the data generated by others in the group to learn about the pharmacokinetics of drugs with high precision. This allows us to model the drug distribution in the body. I then design feedback control algorithms informed by these models so that we can achieve therapeutic levels of the drug for a prolonged time with high sensitivity.
Psychology and Brain Sciences
I am testing the in vivo viability and efficacy of electrochemical aptamer-based biosensors for small molecules including serotonin. The aim of the serotonin project is to measure serotonin in a rat model of serotonergic drug taking including drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals. My ultimate goal is to explore changes in brain serotonin levels in a rat model of addiction.
Biomolecular Science and Engineering
I am broadly interested in leveraging electrochemical approaches to preserve measurement precision for single-particle nanoimpacts and for the electrochemical aptamer-based (EAB) sensor platform. My research focus in the Plaxco lab is to adapt existing surface coupling chemistries to (i) expand the substrate scope of working electrodes and (ii) support the binding-induced folding of EAB sensors.
Neuroscience and Behaviour (Emphasis in Bioengineering)
My primary research focus is the development and implementation of E-AB sensors as an in-vivo tool to study neurobiology, pharmacology, and drug-associated behavioral outputs. I am currently working on simultaneous multi-site measurements to model drug transport across membranes, using E-AB sensors to study the relationship between the PK/PD of psychoactive drugs and their associated behavioral outputs, as well as expanding the E-AB platform to new target sites.
Under the leadership of Dr. Kaylyn Leung, I am working with EAB sensors used for creatinine detection towards medical implementation in humans as a real-time monitor for kidney-related diseases. I am also working to identify the cause of biofouling in EAB sensors that result in their loss of signal.
Adriana (Peachy) Billante
Adriana (Peachy) Billante
CCS Chemistry and Biochemistry
I am working with Dr. Charlotte Flatebo on a project exploring the shelf-life stability of the sensors. Specifically, I am looking at the effects of deposition conditions and the effects of external environments and their impact on signal degradation.
List of Alumni
Alex Downs, Ph.D. '21
Dr. Gabriel Ortega, Postdoctoral Fellow '16-'21
Dr. Alejandro Chamorro Garcia, Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow '19-'21
Dr. Martin Kurnik, Assistant Project Scientist '19-'21, Postdoctoral Fellow '14-'19
Nathan Ogden, Ph.D. '19
Ava 'Shruti' Greenwood, Master '19
Dr. Philippe Dauphin Ducharme, NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow '15-'19
Dr. Andrea Idili, Postdoctoral Fellow '16-'19
Eric Pang, Undergraduate '19
Dr. Claudio Parolo, Beatriu de Pinós Postdoctoral Fellow '16-'18
Dr. Netzahualcóyotl 'Netz' Arroyo, Otis Williams Postdoctoral Fellow '15-'18
...Jacob Somerson, Ph.D. '18
Dr. Andrew Csordas, Post Doc '17-'18
Megan Larisch, Master '17
Deby Fapyane, Visiting International Student Autumn '17
Alessandra Troina, Visiting International Student Autumn '17
Amanda Caceres, Chemistry Undergraduate '17
Chase Hawes, Chemistry Undergraduate '17
Dr. Hui Li, Marie Curie Fellow '14-'17
Ramces Gonzalez,ARC Summer Research Program '16
Stefano Cinti, Visiting Scholar '16
Di Kang,Ph.D. '16
Hannah Kallewaard-Lum,Master '16
Yanxian Li,Chemistry undergraduate '15
Claire Tran,Chemistry undergraduate '15
Dr. Emir Yasun, Post Doc '14-'15
Christopher Bellingham,Chemistry undergraduate '15
Mackenzie Lucero, EUREKA Summer Intern '15
Luke Walls-Smith, B.S. in Biochemistry '14
Anna Simon, Ph.D. '15
Boitumelo 'Tumi' Fanampe, Visiting Fulbright Scholar 2014
Dr. Xiuhai Mao, Winter 2014 Visiting International Researcher
Eric Rinehart, Summer 2013 SURF Fellow
Gianluca Adornetto, Visiting International Student Summer '13
Colin Moore, Visiting International Student Spring '13
Camille Lawrence, Ph.D. '13
Helena Montón Domingo, Visiting International Student Spring '13
Herschel Watkins, Ph.D. '08-'13
Simona Ranallo , Visiting International Student Fall '12
Dr. Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, Post Doc '07-'12
Andrea Idili , Visiting International Student Summer '12
Kaisha Benjamin, SABRE Intern, B.S. Chemical Engineering '13
Amanda Goley, Undergraduate Researcher, B.S. Biochemistry '12
Zoe Swank, Undergraduate Researcher, B.S. Biochemistry '12
Dina Niculaes, Visiting Student '11-'12
Dr. Adriana Patterson, Ph.D. '12
Dr. Fan Xia, Post Doc '09-'12
Dr. Vinh Nguyen, Post Doc '09-'12
Eva Gonzalez Fernandez, International Visiting Student 2012
Alessandro Porchetta, Visiting International Student Fall '11
Dr. Andrew J. Bonham, Post Doc '10-'11
Dr. Ryan White, Post Doc '07-'11
Kelly Chuh , Undergraduate Researcher, BS '11 Biochemistry
Erin Miller, Undergraduate Researcher, BS '11
Dr. Aaron Rowe, Ph.D. '11
Dr. Xiaolei Zuo, Post Doc '08-'10
Dr. Kevin Cash, Ph.D. '09
Dr. Arica Lubin, Ph.D. '09
Dr. Takanori Uzawa , Post Doc '06-'09
Dr. Yi Xiao; Post Doc '04-'08
Dr. Jing Xu, Ph.D. '03-'08
Brook Vander Stoep Hunt (Barajas), Undergraduate Researcher, BS Microbiology '07
Dr. Kenneth J. Oh , PhD '07
Dr. Francesco Ricci , Post Doc '05-'07
Dr. Rebecca Lai , Post Doc '03-'07
Dr. Brian Baker , Post Doc '03-'06
Dr. Miguel de los Rios, Ph.D. '99-'05
Dr. Jonathan E. Kohn , PhD '05
Dr. Evan McCarney , PhD '05
Dr. Blake Gillespie , Post Doc '99-'03
In lieu of a long list of publications listed on this website, an updated list of publications can be found on
If you are interested in working in the Plaxco Lab, trying to sell lab equipment, or just wanting to know where we work, our contact info is below.
PI Office: Room 3002
Lab Office: Room 3209
Center for Bioengineering
University of California Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara 93106
PI Office: (805) 893 5558 Lab Office: (805) 893 5845