Principal Investigator


   Dr. Santimukul Santra
   ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
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Research Associates


   Tyler Shelby
   RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
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  • Research Associate
  • PROJECT: "Nanosensors for the detection of Infectious Diseases".
  • MD-PhD Degree: Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.
  • B. S. Degree: Biology and Chemistry at Pittsburg State University,Pittsburg, Kansas.
  • Bio..
    My name is Tyler Shelby, and I am currently pursuing a bachelor degree in Chemistry, with an emphasis in Biochemistry. I was born in Kansas, but spent a large portion of my childhood just outside of Denver, Colorado. I returned to Kansas as a teenager, and chose to continue my education at Pittsburg State University, originally having a special interest in entering the medical field. As I progressed through the course work in my degree, I became enamored with the science classes I took, and began to view them with pleasure, rather than just as requirements to move on to the next level of education. I soon began to look for opportunities to involve myself in laboratory settings, in order to gain hands-on experience. I now am hoping to pursue a dual M.D./Ph.D. degree after graduating from PSU. Having only recently joined Dr. Santra’s lab, my first project will be to develop a nanoprobe aimed towards targeted imaging and treatment of prostate cancer. The probe will be specifically designed to aid in MRI imaging, allowing the probe to only be activated once it has reached its target cancer cells, providing a greater contrast between the tumor cells and those around it. This mechanism may also be applied to therapy approaches involving chemotherapeutic drugs, including Olaparib. Before joining Dr. Santra’s lab, I gained experience under the instruction of other professors at PSU, including Drs. Zegar and McAfee, working with gene cloning in E. coli for various proteins. Outside of the classroom and laboratory, I enjoy outdoor activities, such as mountain/single-track biking, hiking, camping, and gardening, as well as other activities including reading, writing, and travelling, and have participated in medical internships in Belize and Paraguay. I am also a huge fan of playing music, and have been involved with PSU’s jazz band for the prior three years, as well as various musical groups outside of school, such as Sounds of Quincy.


   Sasha Pashchenko
   RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
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  • Research Associate
  • PROJECT: "Cytotoxicity of sophorolipids using magnetic nanotheranostics".
  • MD Degree: Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH.
  • B. S. Degree:Biology major with an emphasis in pre-med, Chemistry at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    Hello! My name is Sasha Pashchenko, and I was born in Ukraine. When I was seven years old my family moved to Erie, KS, and I eventually decided to pursue a Pre-Medical Biology and Chemistry dual-degree at PSU. I’ve enjoyed studying at PSU a lot, and I’m super excited to continue developing nanotechnology with Dr. Santra. After my BS degree, I plan on pursuing an M.D. degree. Outside of research and studies, I also enjoy drawing, painting, reading, traveling, and the outdoors. Some of my past traveling has included medical volunteer work in Honduras and HIV volunteer work in Kenya. Both research and volunteering abroad has further pushed me to pursue a medical career.

   Rebekah Elliott
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • Research Associate
  • PROJECT: "Nanomedicine for Cancer therapy".
  • B. S. Degree: Biology and Chemistry minor at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    Hi, my name is Rebekah Elliott. I began college as a traditional student at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and recently returned to academics (after homeschooling my three children) to finish my bachelor’s degree in order to pursue my goal of continuing on to medical school and eventually specializing in endocrinology. I always told my children I would be in college with them, and I am! I am a biology major with a minor in chemistry, and have been blessed to be a part of several research projects at PSU. I am looking forward to broadening my research experience working in Dr. Santimukul Santra’s research lab using cutting-edge nanotechnology for biomedical applications and increase experience that I plan to put in use as a practicing physician with both clinical and research hours.

   Dr. Tuhina Banerjee
   RESEARCH SCIENTIST
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  • Adjunct Instructor of Chemistry & Research Scientist
  • PROJECT: "Magnetic Nanosensors for Neuorodegenerative Disorders and Infectious Diseases".
  • Adjunct Instructor and Research Scientist: Department of Chemistry, Pittsburg State University, Kansas.
  • Laboratory Associate: Department of Chemistry, Pittsburg State University, Kansas.
  • Post Doctorate: University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida.
  • Ph. D. Degree: Biophysical chemistry and Biochemistry from Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, India.
  • Bio..
    Dr. Banerjee was born in Varanasi, India, and grew up in a small family with Parents and an elder sister. She completed her undergraduate (BS) and Master of Science (MS) degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi, India. After qualifying all-India-based GATE and NET-CSIR exams, she got selected in the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) for pursuing doctoral degree in 2001. At IIT-B, she joined Professor Nand Kishore’s biophysical chemistry and biochemistry laboratory. Her doctoral research was focused on the “Protein–Solvent Interactions and Molten Globule Intermediates: A Biophysical Approach”. After defending her Ph. D. thesis in 2006, Dr. Banerjee immediately joined Dr. Andrew Feig’s lab at the department of chemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington and then moved to Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, as a postdoctoral research associate. She then joined Dr. Ken Teter’s lab in the University of Central Florida in 2008. She is experienced in the determination of molecular interactions including protein-protein, RNA, DNA and other biological events responsible for various infectious diseases (Cholera, Crohn’s, Anthrax and others). In July, 2013, Dr. Banerjee joined department of chemistry, at the Pittsburg State University, in a Laboratory Associate position and responsible for research, instructions and laboratories.


   Gayathri Sadanala
   LAB WEB DEVELOPER
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  • Lab Web Developer
  • Ph. D. Degree: Information Science & Learning Technologies at University of Missouri, Missouri.
  • M. Tech Degree: Electronics Engineering Technology at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.
  • B. Tech Degree: Computer Science and Engineering at Acharya Nagarjuna University, Andhra Pradesh, India.


Graduate Students


   Zachary Shaw
   M. S. STUDENT
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  • NIH Graduate Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: “New magnetic nanosensors for the detection of Influenza”.
  • M. S. Degree: Polymer Chemistry at Pittsburg State University,Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • B. S. Degree: Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry at Pittsburg State University,Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    My name is Zachary Shaw. I just recently obtained my B.S. Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry at Pittsburg State University. Currently I am pursuing an M.S. Degree in Polymer Chemistry also at PSU. As I completed my undergraduate chemistry courses, my interest narrowed to the subject of biochemistry where I specifically became interested in drug research and targeted drug delivery systems. My first experience in research was at the undergraduate level working with Dr. James McAfee and Dr. Irene Zegar. We worked on a project targeting the kinase domain of the HER2 receptor in HER2+ breast cancer. I learned how to screen molecule data banks using high throughput methods to efficiently find possible ligands that bind to the desired receptor. As I begin my M.S. Degree in Polymer Chemistry, I hope to continue this research under Dr. Santra at his laboratory. Beyond the classroom, I enjoy tinkering, 3D printing, hunting, fishing, and working on my ’82 Z28 Camaro. I also enjoy going to the gym and taking long walks with my girlfriend.

   Ren Bean
   M. S. STUDENT
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  • Chemistry Graduate Teaching Assistant
  • PROJECT: “Development of new polymeric drug delivery system for the early diagnosis and targeted treatment of breast cancer.”        
  • M. S. Degree: Polymer Chemistry at Pittsburg State University,Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • B. S. Degree: Polymer Chemistry at Pittsburg State University,Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    My name is Ren Bean, and I was born and raised in Kansas. I am currently working on my Bachelor’s Degree in Polymer Chemistry (2013-2017) at the Pittsburg State University. My interest in chemistry began while still in high school. As I began my studies at the Pittsburg State University, it became apparent to me that I had an interest and passion for this field of study. When I heard about the new polymer chemistry program, I was thoroughly excited to become one of the first to declare this as my major emphasis of study. As the completion of all my required general education courses has arrived, I have been searching for an opportunity to learn more and find a place to become involved in someone’s meaningful research. I was very eager to meet Dr. Santra and learn what he was doing in the field of Nanotechnology and Cancer Research. I have, for a long time, been drawn to cancer research, knowing that at some point in my future, I would love to do my small part in helping to find a cure for cancer. Nanotechnology allows me to quench my thirst for working with polymers while also working in the area of cancer research. My current project is to develop a new polymeric drug delivery system for the early diagnosis and targeted treatment of breast cancer. I hope to be able to do this and other meaningful research throughout the rest of my time at Pittsburg State University. This would meet my goal of obtaining graduate degrees in polymer chemistry and continuing a lifelong career in research.


   Saloni Darji
   M. S. STUDENT
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  • Chemistry Graduate Teaching Assistant
  • PROJECT: “New soft nanomedicine for the targeted treatment of cancer”.
  • M. S. Degree: Polymer Chemistry at Pittsburg State University, Kansas.
  • B. S. Degree: Biochemistry at M.G. science Institute, Ahmedabad, India.
  • Bio..
    Hello!!! Hello, my name is Saloni Darji and I am from Gujarat, India. I completed my Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry from M.G. science Institute, Ahmedabad, India. I always wanted to make my career in Research and Development. So, I decided to do my Master's from the United States of America, as there are lot of research opportunities which would help me hone my research skills. It was a benediction getting into the M.S. Polymer Chemistry program at Pittsburg State University. Drug designing and mechanism of drug action in the body and learning the etiopathogenesis of a disease has always been my interest areas. After getting into Pittsburg State University, I heard about many projects being carried out in different branches of chemistry and further came to know that Dr. Santra has been undertaking some great projects related to nanotechnology and biomedical field. Working in biomedical field is what I always dreamt of so, I approached Dr. Santra and requested him to give me a chance to be a part of his laboratory and I am glad that he accepted my request and allowed me to work under his guidance. I believe that nothing can be done without hope and confidence so I hope to make the most out of this opportunity and accomplish my goals.


   Himanshu Polara
   M. S. STUDENT
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  • Polymer Chemistry Graduate Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: "Synthesis of biologically-active small molecules and dendritic biopolymers to develop novel drug delivery systems".
  • B. S. Degree: Chemistry at M.G.Science Institute, Ahmedabad , India.
  • M. S. Degree: Chemistry at Pittsburg State University, Kansas.
  • Bio..
    Hello there !! My name is Himanshu Polara. I was born and brought up in Gujarat, India. I am currently pursuing my Master's Degree in Chemistry (2018-2020) at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KS. I have done my Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from M.G.Science Institute, Ahmedabad , India. My interest in chemistry began when I was in high school and this interest gradually grew up when I came to know more about Chemistry. I was seeking for research opportunities in order to improve hands-on experience. After getting into Pittsburg state university, I realized that Dr. Santra is doing biomedical research in which I'm interested in. I am so pleased and anticipating to learn organic synthesis and drug delivery along with nanotechnology. I will be working on the synthesis of biologically-active small molecules and dendritic biopolymers to develop novel drug delivery systems.

   Arth Patel
   M. S. STUDENT
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  • ACS-PRF Graduate Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: "Developing new nanomedicines for the targeted treatment of cancer".
  • B. S. Degree: Chemistry at Gujarat University, India.
  • M. S. Degree: Chemistry at Pittsburg State University, Kansas.
  • Bio..
    Hi there, my name is Arth Patel, I born and raised in Ahmedabad city in India. I have done my undergraduate in chemistry from Gujarat University. When I was a kid, I used to say to people that I want to be a scientist and the best part was I didn’t even know what it was. Somehow my destiny brought me into this field of study even though I was not a big fan of chemistry in high school. During my undergraduate, one of the emerging area called Medicinal chemistry fascinated me the most and I started being curious on a topic like “Malaria cycle”, “Cancer treatment”, “Drug development”. Right after that, I would like to pursue my career as a research scientist. My personal interest is in Dr. Santra’s amazing cancer-related biomedical research, I am glad that he gave me this opportunity to follow my passion. I will be working on developing new nanomedicines for the targeted treatment of cancer.


Undergraduate Students


   Denise Muchangi
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • K-INBRE Star-Trainee Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: "Development of metal nano-sandwiches for cancer imaging. ".
  • B. S. Degree: Biology and emphasis on pre-medicine at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    Hello, my name is Denise Muchangi. I was born in Kenya, Africa and moved to Olathe, Kansas when I was about 10 years old. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis in pre-medicine. After I graduate, I hope to achieve my dream of attaining a M.D degree. I have always had a passion of helping people, and so in my free-time, I try to volunteer as much as possible. I hope to attain some knowledge about research in my undergrad years and being able to work with Dr. Santra has given me a chance to achieve that dream. My current research is focused on metal nano-sandwiches for cancer imaging.

   Quentin Austin
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • K-INBRE Semester Scholar Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: “New click-ene chemistry for biochemical applications”.
  • B. S. Degree: Polymer Chemistry at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    Hello there, I’m Quentin Austin. I am from the small town of Cherryvale, KS where I graduated from Cherryvale High School as Class Valedictorian. Ever since I was young, I have had a deep passion for science and an endless curiosity of what surrounded me. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Polymer Chemistry. I had been interested in Dr. Santra’s Polymer Chemistry Program since my high school Chemistry teacher told me about it. Several of my professors at Independence Community College really pushed me to follow my interests. This motivated me to immerse myself in my studies and take classes that challenge me. My ultimate goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in Chemistry and to be involved with research in order to make a difference in the world around me. When I’m not buried in my studies, you can often find me outdoors absorbed in nature, collecting fossils, or you might catch my band Edge Over Edge performing in the local area.

   Christina Fletcher
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • K-INBRE Bridging Grant Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: “New MR activatable nanoprobes for multiparametric imaging and treatment of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC)”.
  • B. S. Degree: Biology at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    Hi! My name is Christina Fletcher, I am currently working towards a bachelors in biology with a minor in Physical Science and Chemistry and hope to become a Physician’s assistant. I was born in Portsmouth, VA but have lived most of my life in Northeast Kansas. I love movies, cooking, reading, and spending time with my family and friends. My interest in the medical field began when my brother was diagnosed with autism. I was able to witness a lot of different aspects of the medical field and to an extent was able to provide at home care for him. As I began my biology classes at Pittsburg State University my interests grew in studying different diseases and the methods used to treat them so I was thrilled when Dr. Santra told me about the Nanotheranostic laboratory. This is an amazing opportunity that will help me achieve my goals and I hope to contribute to the goal of curing cancer. My current research focused on new MR activatable nanoprobes for multiparametric imaging and treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

   Ryan Higginbotham
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • ACS-PRF Chemist
  • PROJECT: “Development of new nanotechnologies for treatment of cancers.”        
  • B. S. Degree: Chemistry at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    My name is Ryan Higginbotham, and I was born in West Plains, MO. I moved to Pittsburg when I was seven. I joined Pittsburg State University in the fall of 2015, aimed B.S. degree in Biology with a Pre-Med emphasis. When came to know that Dr. Santra is doing research on cancers and infectious diseases, I was on board and decided to join the lab. In my free time, I enjoy playing violin, ultimate frisbee, and hiking. I’m currently working on the delivery of sophorolipids for targeted cancer therapy using nanoplatforms.


   Vedant Jain
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • K-INBRE Semester Scholar Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: "Development of new materials for biomedical applications".
  • B. S. Degree: Biology and emphasis on molecular and cellular biology at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    .Hello!! I am Vedant Jain. I am from India. I am currently pursuing my bachelor’s at PSU with majors in biology and emphasis on cellular and molecular biology. I was always interested in lab work since my schooling years and knew that research was my passion. I am grateful to Dr. Santra for letting me take part in his research projects and nurturing skills that I never thought I would gain. I wish to pursue a career in molecular genetics and someday do good for humanity.

   Orion Battaglia
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: "Magnetic nanosensors for infectious disease detection".
  • B. S. Degree: Pre-Medical Biology at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    My name is Orion Battaglia and I have been a Pittsburg native for 18 years of my life. I graduated from St.Mary’s Colgan Highschool in the spring of 2016 and from there went straight to Pittsburg State University to begin study for a Pre-Medical Biology Bachelors Degree. My goal is to later pursue an M.D. degree after graduating PSU. Through a combination of the credibility of Dr. Santra’s lab and his flexibility in accommodation of student schedules I decided to join his team of student researchers in the hopes of advancing the resources available for combating and preventing infectious diseases. When I am not at work or studying I enjoy working out, playing tennis or piano, and cooking.

   Yashvi Limbasiya
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • K-INBRE University Scholar Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: "Nanomedicine for cancer therapy".
  • B. S. Degree: Biology at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    Hello, I am Yashvi Limbasiya in the undergraduate program with a major in cell and molecular biology with emphasis in pre-medicine. I always dream to become a doctor and save lives. The other thing that I have always found fascinating is working with labs. When Dr. Santra gave me this opportunity to work in his lab, I was really happy and initiated a step towards my bright future. I am working on developing novel drug delivery systems for the targeted treatment of cancer. Cooking is my hobby.

   Thai Butcher
   B. S. STUDENT
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  • ACS-PRF Research Assistant
  • PROJECT: "New biodegradable polymer synthesis for drug delivery.".
  • B. S. Degree: Chemistry minor at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KANSAS
  • Bio..
    My name’s Thai Butcher. I was born and raised in the Joplin, MO area. I am currently a sophomore attending Pittsburg State University to get my B.S. in Chemistry with an emphasis on becoming an American Chemical Society certified chemist. I am still deciding on exactly what I want to do with my degree, but I have become very interested in Polymer Chemistry. In my free time I love playing video games, hiking, and just being around my friends and family! I’m very excited to become a part of Dr. Santra’s research team!