Singamaneni named Lilyan & E. Lisle Hughes Professor

Singamaneni is a pioneer in the design, synthesis and applications of plasmonic nanostructures

Srikanth Singamaneni

Srikanth Singamaneni, an internationally renowned materials scientist, has been named the Lilyan and E. Lisle Hughes Professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Since he joined the department in 2010 as an assistant professor, Singamaneni has received nearly $10 million in funding for his research from numerous federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office, and the Office of Naval Research, among others.

“Srikanth’s research is on the cutting edge of materials science with immediate applications in medicine, biosensing, bioimaging, and nanotherapeutics,” said Aaron Bobick, dean and the James M. McKelvey Professor. “He integrates physics, nanotechnology and materials to create innovative products with applications ranging from rapid tests for COVID and other viruses to wastewater treatment solutions. I am thrilled we can recognize his outstanding work with the Hughes Professorship.” 

Singamaneni is widely acknowledged as one of the pioneers in the design, synthesis and applications of plasmonic nanostructures and organic/inorganic hybrids, as well as in the biomedical applications of these materials. His creative research provides the basis for efforts worldwide. For example, his seminal papers in Nature Biomedical Engineering (2020, 2021, 2023) are important advances in the design of ultrabright plasmonic labels and their application in bioanalytics.  

In the area of plasmon-enhanced fluorescence for ultrasensitive biodiagnostics, his lab pioneered the design and synthesis of plasmon-enhanced fluorescence nanolabels.  These dramatically enhance fluorescence and have transformed biodiagnostics.  His “plasmonic patch”, an elastomeric patch with adsorbed plasmonic nanostructures, increases the fluorescence of standard fluorophores by a factor of 100, and his “plasmonic-fluors” are 7000-fold brighter than conventional molecular fluorophores (Nat Biomed Eng 4, 518–530 (2020)).  Plasmonic-fluors, colloidal nanoconstructs he invented, have proven to be simple and easy-to-use for plate-based and bead-based immunoassays, immuno-microarrays, immunohistochemistry (IHC), and flow cytometry.  Plasmonic fluors enable minimally-invasive and ultrasensitive quantification of proteins in interstitial fluid through microneedle-assisted in vivo sampling and on-needle analysis (Nat Biomed Eng 5, 64–76 (2021)). 

His lab has demonstrated ultrabright surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) probes for biosensing and bioimaging applications.  A key challenge he overcame is the limited brightness of SERS probes employed as exogenous contrast agents.  He addressed this by introducing simple and robust chemical methods for achieving ultrabright SERS probes by either trapping Raman reporters between core-satellite assemblies of gold nanostructures or by sandwiching Raman reporters between the gold core and shell of core-shell nanoparticles.  Bioenabled synthesis of core-satellite gold superstructures with accessible electromagnetic hotspots provides a substantial enhancement to functional bioimaging.  By incorporating these bright probes into drug delivery vehicles, his lab has contributed to a range of image-guided cancer therapies.

His lab has also developed simple methods to create three-dimensional monolithic and bilayered biofoams by integrating plasmonic nanostructures and 2D nanomaterials with highly porous bacterial nanocellulose aerogels.  The highly open porous structure of the biomaterial foam combined with the high volumetric density of nanostructures makes plasmonic foam a solid-state analogue of a highly concentrated solution of plasmonic nanostructures.  His lab has demonstrated the facile fabrication of a bilayered hybrid biofoam comprised of BNC and reduced graphene oxide (RGO) for highly efficient solar steam generation.  In stark contrast to conventional approaches, the functional biofoam is fabricated by incorporating RGO flakes within the nanocellulose fiber layers during the bacteria-mediated growth of the BNC hydrogel.  The RGO-loaded BNC has been employed for solar steam generation, nanofiltration membrane, and flexible supercapacitors. 

He is a member of the university’s Center for Aerosol Science and Engineering (CASE), the Center for Biomolecular Condensates and the Institute of Materials Science & Engineering.

He has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the Dean’s Faculty Award for Innovation in Research. He serves as an associate editor of ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. In 2023, he was made a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) He is the author or a co-author of nearly 200 refereed articles in journals, 10 invited reviews, six book chapters and one book. He earned a doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

A bequest from Lilyan “Lolly” Hughes in memory of her husband, Elmer Lisle Hughes, who died in 1991, established the Hughes Professorship in 2003 within the School of Engineering. She said her reason for doing so was that “he would have wanted it so.” Mr. Hughes was born and reared in Kansas City, Missouri. His father had earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Washington University in 1917, and Mr. Hughes earned a bachelor’s degree in the same discipline from the university in 1943 and a degree in naval architecture from the University of Michigan in 1946. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as an ensign on the cruiser Biloxi, supervising the operation of boilers on the ship. After receiving an honorable discharge as lieutenant senior grade in 1947, he entered his father’s business.

His father, Elmer L. Hughes Sr., who remained president of the firm into the 1940s, had founded Hughes Machinery Co., a steam generator and power plant machinery manufacturer, in 1924. He turned the business over to Mr. Hughes, who sold the company to the young engineers working there, but continued to serve as a member of the board of directors and a consultant to the company during his retirement. Mr. Hughes also served as chairman of First National Bank. He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers.

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