Omowunmi Sadik -- Wunmi for short – is a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She’s an expert in bioanalytical chemistry, and his work is aimed, in one way or another, at preventing tragedies and making the world a safer place.
Wunmi’s research is focused on the development of sensors. Some are designed to detect bombs and chemical warfare agents, and others are designed to help dentists detect dental decay, cancer, and periodontal disease.
In his lab at SUNY-Binghamton, Wunmi and her colleagues are developing an array of sensor chips using a combination of laboratory polymers, microelectronics and biological molecules such as cells, antibodies, nucleic acids and lectins. The goal is to detect metal ions, volatile organic compounds, proteins and enzymes.
Take proteins, for example. One of the biosensor devices has the potential to help dentists distinguish between normal and abnormal levels of salivary proteins. Monitoring such changes may be used as a form of early detection for oral cancer.
“A visitor to our laboratory,” she said, “might see us preparing polymers for the sensor chips, immobilizing some of the biomolecules onto the chips and even see us detecting some oral proteins in real human saliva using these sensor chips.”
Wunmi takes great pride in what she does. “The most exciting aspect of our work,” she said, “is the fact that we are using chemistry and biochemical principles to address real life problems such as monitoring oral health or detecting unsafe chemicals in the air or drinking water.”
Examples of his work can be found in the April 11, 2003, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education in a brief titled “10 research projects meant to keep you safer.”
To those who would like to follow in his footsteps, she recommends courses in chemistry, biological sciences, physics and math, of course. But she also recommends being flexible and extending one’s education beyond the textbook.