Carol Tanner

Professor of Physics


218 Nieuwland Science Hall

Research Cluster

Imaging & Structure

Nano-particle Characterization of Biological Systems

Collaborative research with Prof. Steven Ruggiero

Even on microscopic scales, biological systems are comprised of elements that span a broad range of sizes. For example,cells contain many, highly diverse components that span a very wide range of size and density: from hundreds of micron-sized organelles to billions of nanometer-sized protein molecules, with many objects in between. While there are sophisticated models for the physical and biological properties of multi-cellular aggregates, there is not a complete understanding of the complex physical properties and internal organization of objects within cells. We have been employing a new investigative tool, light transmission spectroscopy(LTS), to investigate the size distribution of particles within cells in order to uncover the governing principles that relate to their internal organization and their microscopic physical and emergent properties. We are presently looking at this problem in the context of optimal packing models for three-dimensional fractal objects. This work also includes practical studies of cancer and normal cells, in which we have observed differences in particle-size distributions. Our work also includes studies of the particle-size distributions of a number of biological systems such as proteins, bound protein pairs, liposomes, micelles, so-called nanocages, and the detection of environmental DNA, proteins, bacteria and viruses.


  1. "DNA-based species detection capabilities using laser transmission spectroscopy" Mahon, A.R.; Barnes, M.A.; Li, F.; Egan, S.P.; Tanner, C.E.; Ruggiero, S.T.; Feder, J.L.; Lodge, D.M. J. R. Soc. Interface 2013, 10, 1-7.
  2. "Rapid invasive species detection by combining environmental DNA with Light Transmission Spectroscopy" Egan, S.P.; Barnes, M.A.; Hwang, C.-T.; Mahon, A.R.; Feder, J.L.; Ruggiero, S.T.; Tanner, C.E.; Lodge, D.M. Cons. Lett. 2013, 6, 402-409.åÊ
  3. "Rapid molecular detection of invasive species in ballast and harbor water by integrating environmental DNA and light transmission spectroscopy" Egan, S.P.; Grey, E.; Olds, B.; Feder, J.L.; Ruggiero, S.T.; Tanner, C.E.; Lodge, D.M. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2015, 49, 4113-4121.
  4. "Nanoparticle analysis of cancer cells by light transmission spectroscopy" Sun, N.; Johnson, J.; Stack, M.S.; Szajko, J.; Sander, C.; Rebuyon, R.; Deatsch, A.; Easton, J.; Tanner, C.E.; Ruggiero, S.T. Analytical Biochemistry 2015, 484, 58-65.