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Mohsen Mahmoodi receives Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship

Mohammad Mohsen Mahmoodi, a fourth-year graduate student working with Professor Mark Distefano, has received a 2014-15 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship. Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships (IDF) award outstanding students with interdisciplinary dissertation topics who would benefit from interaction with faculty at one of the University's interdisciplinary research centers or institutes.

Mahmoodi's fields of interest are chemical biology and organic chemistry. His project encompasses the development of photo-cleavable protecting groups through computational design and experimental analysis. Photo-cleavable protecting groups can be used for light-triggered drug release inside biological systems such as cells, embryos, and, ultimately, animal tissues. They can be appended to various types of molecules and be cleaved by irradiation. Using this technique, drugs or bioactive molecules can be modified with these protecting groups, transferred into the target tissues, and reactivated upon irradiation in a spatio-temporal manner.

In order to develop more sensitive photo-cleavable compounds, Mahmoodi is planning to use computational methods to calculate spectral properties of various compounds. The lead compounds will then be prepared by organic synthesis and their light sensitivity will be evaluated experimentally. To accomplish this interdisciplinary research, he is collaborating with Professor David Blank's researchers, including graduate student Thomas Pundsack, on the use of a laser instrument for performing photolysis experiments. For computational calculations, Mahmoodi is collaborating with the Minnesota Supercomputing Center.  

The Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship includes a $22,500 stipend for the academic year, tuition, and subsidized health insurance.