Group Website

Education, Honors, Awards

  • Professor, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA (2016-present)
  • Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) Best Paper Award, James Madison University (2016)
  • Distinguished Teacher Award, James Madison University College of Sceince and Mathematics (2015)
  • Associate Professor, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA (2009-2016)
  • Assistant Professor, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA (2003-2009)
  • Lambda Sigma (Sophomore Honor Society) Professor of the Month, Georgia Institute of Technology (2002)
  • Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer (Organic Chemistry), Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA (2001-2003)
  • Ph.D., Chemistry Department, Emory University, Atlanta, GA (2001)
  • Dr. Osborne Robinson Quale Fellowship for Excellence in Graduate Research, Emory University (1999)
  • Service Instructor, Integrated Microscopy and Microanalytical Facility, Emory University, Atlanta, GA (1997-2001)
  • B.A., Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY (1996)

Research Interests

  • Colloidal and supramolecular organic systems. Synthesis of rationally designed compounds and study of their self-assembly and aggregation using a wide variety of physical and spectroscopic methods.
  • Molecular Recognition. Engineering of molecules to recognize molecules with complementary functionalities.
  • Nanoscience Education. Development of laboratory and lecture modules to introduce undergraduate students to nanoscience.
  • Chemistry Demonstrations. Working with K-12 and college educators within and beyond Virginia on the development and implementation of science demonstrations for both classroom and outreach activities. 

Research Description

In the Caran lab, we use the tools of organic synthesis to make novel compounds in an effort to develop self-assembled soft materials (colloids) with well-defined properties. We subsequently use a wide variety of tools and analytical methods to measure the properties and to understand the modes of self-assembly of the colloidal aggregates formed by these novel compounds.

For example, we have developed a series of organogelators (compounds that form gels in organic solvents) which self assemble via a combination of hydrogen bonding and pi-pi stacking of complementary arenes [in collaboration with Dr. Michal Sabat (UVA Materials Science and Engineering) and Dr. Lin Pu (UVA Chemistry)].

In another project, we have prepared a number of surfactants with two or more polar head groups and one or more non-polar tail which self-assemble in an aqueous environment. These compounds show unique properties when compared to conventional surfactants (one head and one tail). We examine both colloidal and antimicrobial properties of these novel compounds, in collaboration with Dr. Kevin P. C. Minbiole (Villanova Chemistry) and Dr. Kyle Seifert (JMU Biology).

Students in the Caran lab synthesize, purify and analyze the structure of these novel molecules, and subsequently study the self-assembled materials using an arsenal of analytical techniques including nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), optical microscopy, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), surface tensiometry, conductivity and attenuated total reflectance infrared (ATR-IR) spectroscopy.

Selected Recent Publications

  • Gallagher, T. M.; Marafino, J. N.; Wimbish, B. K.; Volkers, B.; Fitzgerald, G.; McKenna, K.; Floyd, J.; Minahan, J. T.; Walsh, B.; Thompson, K. Bruno, D.; Paneru, M.; Djikeng, S.; Masters, S.; Haji, S.; Seifert, K.; Caran. K. L. “Hydra Amphiphiles: Using Three Heads and One Tail to Influence Aggregate Formation and to Kill Pathogenic Bacteria.” Colloids Surf. B. 2017, 157, 440-448. 
  • Minbiole, K. P. C.; Jennings, M. C.; Ator, L. E.; Black, J. W.; Grenier, M. C.; LaDow, J. E.; Caran, K. L.; Seifert, K.; Wuest, W. M. "From antimicrobial activity to mechanism of resistance: the multifaceted role of simple quaternary ammonium compounds in bacterial eradication" Tetrahedron, 2016, 72(25), 3559-3566. 
  • Heerschap, S.; Marafino,  J. N.; McKenna, K.; Caran,  K. L.; Feitosa, K. “Foams Stabilized by Tricationic Amphiphilic Surfactants” Colloids Surf. A 2015, 487, 190-197. 
  • Marafino, J. N.; Gallagher. T. M.; Barragan, J.; Volkers, B. L.; LaDow, J. E.; Bonifer, K.; Fitzgerald, G.; Floyd, J. L.; McKenna, K.; Minahan, N. T.; Walsh, B.; Seifert, K.; Caran, K. L. "Colloidal and Antibacterial Properties of Novel Triple-Headed, Double-Tailed Amphiphiles: Exploring Structure-Activity Relationships and Synergistic Mixtures" Bioorg. Med. Chem. 2015, 23, 3566-3573. 
  • Caran, K. L.; Lee, D. C.; Weiss, R. G. “Molecular Gels and their Fibrillar Networks” In: Soft Fibrillar Materials: Fabrication and Applications, Liu, X. Y. (Ed.); Li, J. L. (Ed.); Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, 2013, 1-75.
  • Grenier, M. C.; Davis, R. W.; Wilson-Henjum, K. L.; LaDow, J. E.; Black, J. W.; Caran, K. L.; Seifert, K.; Minbiole, K. P. C. "The Antibacterial Activity of 4,4'-Bipyridinium Amphiphiles with Conventional, Bicephalic and Gemini Architectures" Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 2012, 22(12), 4055-4058.
  • LaDow, J. E.; Warnock, D. C.; Hamill, K. M.; Simmons, K. L.; Davis, R. W.; Schwantes, C. R.; Flaherty, D. C.; Willcox, J. A. L.; Wilson-Henjum, K.; Caran, K. L.; Minbiole, K. P. C.; Seifert, K. "Bicephalic Amphiphile Architecture Affects Antibacterial Activity" Eur. J. Med. Chem. 2011, 46(9), 4219-4226.
  • Augustine, B. H.; Caran, K. L.; Reisner, B. A. “An Evolutionary Approach to Nanoscience in the Undergraduate Chemistry Curriculum at James Madison University” Book chapter in ACS Symposium Series on Nanoscience Education, K. A. Pacheco, ed, American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., 2010, 19-48.
  • Roszak, K. Z.; Torcivia, S. L.; Hamill, K. M.; Hill, A. R.; Radloff, K. R.; Crizer, D. M.; Middleton, A. M.; Caran, K. L. “Biscationic Bicephalic (Double-Headed) Amphiphiles with an Aromatic Spacer and a Single Hydrophobic Tail” J. Colloid Interface Sci., 2009, 331, 560-564.
  • Borges, A. R.; Hyacinth, M.; Lum, M.; Dingle, C. M.; Hamilton, P. L.; Chruszcz, M.; Pu, L.; Sabat, M.; Caran, K. L. “Self-Assembled Thermoreversible Gels of Non-Polar Liquids by Racemic Propargylic Alcohols with Fluorinated and Non-Fluorinated Aromatic Rings” Langmuir 2008, 24, 7421-7431.
  • Augustine, B. H.; Reisner, B. A.; Caran, K. L. “The Nanoscience Undergraduate Education (NUE) program at James Madison University” Mat. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. 2006, 931, 13-18.
  • Sasine, J. S.; Brewster, R. E.; Caran, K. L.; Shuker, S. B. “Dimerization studies of calix[4]arene derivatives in polar solvents” Org. Lett. 2006, 8, 2913-2915.
  • Brewster, R. E.; Caran, K. L.; Sasine, J. S.; Shuker, S. B.  “Peptidocalixarenes in Molecular Recognition” Curr. Org. Chem. 2004, 8, 867-881.
  • Cochran, J. C.; Caran, K. L.; Pierz, E. A.; Miller, D. A. “Kinetics of the Uncatalyzed Hydrostannation of Diethyl Acetylenedicarboxylate” Syn. React. Inorg. Met. 2003, 33, 725-734.
  • Menger, F. M.; Keiper, J. S.; Caran, K. L. “Depth Profiling with Giant Vessicle Membranes” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2002,124, 11842-11843.
  • Menger, F. M.; Zhang, H.; Caran, K. L.; Seredyuk, V. A.; Apkarian, R. P. “Gemini-Induced Columnar Jointing in Vitreous Ice.  Cryo-HRSEM as a Tool for Discovering New Colloidal Morphologies” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2002, 124, 1140-1141.
  • Barragan, V.; Menger, F. M.; Caran, K. L.; Vidil, C.; Morère, A.; Montero, J.-L. “A Mannose-6-phosphonate/cholesterylamine Conjugate as a Specific Molecular Adhesive Linking Cancer Cells with Vesicles” Chem. Commun. 2001, 85-86.
  • Menger, F. M.; Caran, K. L.; Seredyuk, V. A. “Chemical Reactions Between Colliding Vesicles” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2001, 40, 3905-3907. [link]
  • Menger, F. M.; Caran, K. L. “Anatomy of a Gel. Amino Acid Derivatives that Rigidify Water at Sub-Millimolar Concentrations” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2000, 122, 11679-11691.
  • Menger F. M.; Peresypkin, A. V.; Caran, K. L.; Apkarian, R. P. “A Sponge Morphology in an Elementary Coacervate” Langmuir 2000, 16, 9113-9116.
  • Menger, F. M.; Keiper, J. S.; Mbadugha, B. N. A.; Caran, K. L.; Romsted, L. S. “Interfacial Composition of Gemini Surfactant Micelles Determined by Chemical Trapping” Langmuir 2000, 16, 9095-9098.
  • McMillan, R. A.; Caran, K L.; Apkarian, R. P.; Conticello, V. P. “High Resolution Topographic Imaging of Environmentally Responsive, Elastin-Mimetic Hydrogels” Macromolecules 1999, 32, 9067-9070.
  • Apkarian, R. P.; Caran, K. L.; Robinson, K. A. “Topographic Imaging of Chromium-Coated Frozen-Hydrated Cell and Macromolecular Complexes by In-lens Field Emission SEM” Microsc. Microanal. 1999, 5, 197-207 (feature article).

Patents & Patent Applications

  • United States Patent No. US 9,556,109 "Triscationic amphiphile derivative compounds having a pendent alcohol group, compositions thereof, and methods for making same.” Inventors: Dr. Kevin L. Caran, Dr. Kyle Seifert. Date of patent: January 31, 2017
  • United Stated Patent No. US 8,980,925 B2 “Antimicrobial Amphiphiles and Methods for their Use.” Inventors: Dr. Kevin P. C. Minbiole, Dr. Kevin L. Caran, Dr. Kyle Seifert. Date of Patent: March 17, 2015.
  • Provisional Patent Application "Novel Triscationic Amphiphile Compounds, Compositions, and Methods for Making Same." Inventors: Dr. Kevin L. Caran, Dr. Kyle Seifert. Application filed on October 24, 2014.

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