Steven C. Zimmerman
Roger Adams Professor of Chemistry
Professor, Materials Research Lab
Professor Steven C. Zimmerman attended the University of Wisconsin as an undergraduate. After obtaining his B.S. in 1979, he moved to New York City where in 1983 he obtained his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He held an NSF-NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge in England and joined the Illinois faculty in 1985. Professor Zimmerman's research interests are in bioorganic, synthetic organic, and physical organic chemistry.
Research in our group focuses on the understanding, development, and application of molecular recognition processes. In particular, we design, synthesize, and study organic compounds that can: (1) act as synthetic antibodies to bind any target molecule, as well as signaling its presence, (2) bind to predefined sequences of DNA and RNA with very high affinity, (3) self-assemble into large, nanoscopic structures, and (4) act as supramolecular polymers. The applications of our work are in the areas of drug delivery, chemical sensors and medical diagnostics, anti-gene therapy, and novel materials.
Synthetic Antibodies by Molecular Imprinting: Nature is especially adept at producing molecules that can recognize other molecules. For example, the exquisitely selective molecular recognition shown by antibodies has long inspired chemists, who for decades have tried to synthesize analogous molecular receptors. We are working to create molecular receptors using a fully general approach in which one molecule imprints its structure within another, much like the way in which any object can cast its own shape in plaster of Paris. The overall process involves a molecular template forming an imprint of itself in a highly branched polymer called a dendrimer.
Molecular Recognition of DNA and RNA: My research group also has an interest in designing, synthesizing, and studying molecules that recognize specific sequences or structures of nucleic acids. A general DNA or RNA recognition scheme would provide a powerful strategy for gene regulation and, for example, allow the development of "genetic medicines". We are developing novel nucleobases and other small molecules that can complex certain DNA and RNA structures efficiently and selectively.
Nanoscopic Organic Structures by Self-Assembly: A largely unexplored area of organic chemistry involves molecules with "nanoscale" dimensions (1-10 nm). My group is attempting to synthesize nanoscale objects, such as hollow spheres and hollow nanotubes. A particularly powerful approach involves compounds that spontaneously assemble into larger structures. In the process we are learning the rules that guide this type of non-covalent organic synthesis.
Supramolecular Polymer Chemistry:
What kinds of polymers can be made noncovalently? What are their properties?
How can one modify existing polymers noncovalently? We are developing
some simple recognition modules that allow these questions to be answered.
One goal of this research is to modify cheap, commercially available
polymers in a way that gives them more advanced materials properties.
1. Andrew Zill, Alexandra Rutz, Richie E. Kohman, Alaaldin Alkilany, Catherine J. Murphy, Hyunjoon Kong, Steven C. Zimmerman, “Clickable Polyglycerol Hyperbranched Polymers and Their Application to Acid Labile Nanocarriers and Gold Nanoparticles,”Chem. Commun.2011,47, 1279-1281. DOI: 10.1039/C0CC04096G
2. Chun-Ho Wong, Sreenivasa Rao Ramisetty, Yuan Fu, Anne M. Baranger, Steven C. Zimmerman, “Selective Inhibition of MBNL1-CCUG Interaction by Small Molecules for Myotonic Dystrophy Type 2 (DM2),”Nuc. Acids. Res.2011,39, 8881-8890. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkr415
3. Si Kyung Yang, Xinghua Shi, Seongjin Park, Sultan Doganay, Taekjip Ha, and Steven C. Zimmerman, “Monovalent and Clickable, Uncharged Water-Soluble Perylenediimide-Cored Dendrimers for Target-Specific, Fluorescent Biolabeling,”J. Am. Chem. Soc.2011,131, 9964–9967. DOI: 10.1021/ja2009136
4. Ying Li, Taiho Park, J. Kwansima Quansah, and Steven C. Zimmerman, “Synthesis of a Redox-Responsive Quadruple Hydrogen-Bonding Unit for Applications in Supramolecular Chemistry,”J. Am. Chem. Soc.2011,133, 17118–17121. DOI: 10.1021/ja2069278
5. Chaenyung Cha, Jae Hyun Jeong, Xin Tang, Andrew T. Zill, Y. S. Prakash, Steven C. Zimmerman, Taher A. Saif, Hyun-Joon Kong, “Top-Down Synthesis of Versatile Polyaspartamide Linkers for Single-Step Protein Conjugation to Materials,”Bioconjug. Chem.2011,22, 2377-2382. DOI: 10.1021/bc200339s.
6. Andrew T. Zill, Kai Licha, Rainer Haag, Steven C. Zimmerman, “Synthesis and Properties of Fluorescent Dyes Conjugated to Hyperbranched Polyglycerols,”New J. Chem.2012,36, 419-427. DOI: 10.1039/C1NJ20476A
7. Dirk Steinhilber, Florian Paulus, Andrew T. Zill, Steven C. Zimmerman and Rainer Haag, “Calixarene Functionalized Polyglycerol Nanogels for Encapsulation and Stabilization of Fluorescent Dyes,”MRS Proceedings,2012,1403, 185-193. DOI: 10.1557/opl.2012.419
8. Si Kyung Yang and Steven C. Zimmerman, “Polyglycerol-Dendronized Perylenediimides as Stable, Water-soluble Fluorophores,”Adv. Funct. Mater.,2012,22, 3023-3028. DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201200004
9. Yagang Zhang and Steven C. Zimmerman, “Azobenzene Dye Coupled Quadruple Hydrogen Bonding Modules as Colorimetric Indicators for Supramolecular Interactions,”Beilstein J. Org. Chem.,2012, 8, 486–495. DOI:10.3762/bjoc.8.55
10. Chun-Ho Wong, Stacie L. Richardson, Yen-Jun Ho, Alex M. H. Lucas, Tiziano Tuccinardi, Anne M. Baranger, and Steven C. Zimmerman, “Investigating the Binding Mode of an Inhibitor of the MBNL1⋅RNA Complex in Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1 (DM1) Leads to the Unexpected Discovery of a DNA-Selective Binder,”ChemBioChem2012,13, 2505-2509. DOI: 10.1002/cbic.201200602
11. Chun-Ho Wong and Steven C. Zimmerman, “Orthogonality in Organic, Polymer, and Supramolecular Chemistry: from Merrifield to Click Chemistry,”Chem. Commun.2013,49, 1679 - 1695 DOI: 10.1039/c2cc37316e. Cover Article.
12. Amin Haghighat Jahromi, Lien Nguyen, Yuan Fu, Kali Miller, Anne M. Baranger, and Steven C. Zimmerman, “A Novel CUGexp·MBNL1 Inhibitor with Therapeutic Potential for Myotonic Dystrophy Type 1,”ACS Chem. Biol.2013,accepted for publication.
- Fellow, American Chemical Society
- Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, American Chemical Society
- Buck-Whitney Award, Eastern New York Section of American Chemical Society
- Presidential Young Investigator Award, National Science Foundation
- Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship
- Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award
- Cyanamid Academic Award
- Eli Lilly Grantee
- American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Award
- School of Chemical Sciences Teaching Awards (3 total)
The Zimmerman Group has been highlighted in C&E News for their work on targetting RNA. Read the C&E News article here.
Dr. Zimmerman and Dr. Anne Baranger have designed a small molecule that blocks an aberrant pathway associated with myotonic dystrophy type 1, the most common form of muscular dystrophy. Their research has been highlighted by the UIUC News Bureau, Science Daily, e!Science News, United Press International, and many more.
Work in the Zimmerman group has featured in numerous magazines and newspapers. Examples of these featured items include:
- Our work on imprinted dendrimers has been published in 2002 Nature magazine and was featured in Nature's News and Views, Nature Biotechnology, Science News, C&EN, and in the news periodicals such as Technology Review and The News Gazette, to name a few.
- Our earliest self-assembling dendrimer appeared on the cover of Science magazine (February 1996). This work was also featured in November 1, 1999 and June 3, 1996 C&EN articles about dendrimers. A picture of one of our dendrimers was on the cover of June 3, 1996 issue, as well.