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Kalani Seu
Associate Professor of Chemistry

Kalani Seu so valued his education at Earlham that he decided to become a chemistry professor at a small liberal arts college. What he didn’t know is that he would have the opportunity to return to Earlham, where he now teaches Biochemistry, Principles of Chemistry, Organic Chemistry I, and upper-level courses including the Senior Seminar.

Kalani researches lipid membranes — like the ones that surround our cells — and the way that they impact cell function. Recently he and four students have been investigating epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant extracted from green tea that has shown promise as a therapeutic for HIV, cancer, and many other disorders. Outside research has shown that EGCG interacts with cell membranes, and Kalani’s group has gained some insights into the mechanism by which it works.

Contact Info

Campus Mail
Drawer 8

Phone
765-983-1364

E-mail

Office
242 Stanley Hall

Office Hours
Changes by semester (posted on office door)

Programs/Departments

  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Purdue University
  • B.A., Earlham College

Selected Courses:

The primary course that I teach is Biochemistry (CHEM351) lecture and lab.  My regular teaching load also includes Principles of Chemistry (CHEM111) lab, Organic Chemistry I (CHEM221) lecture and labs, and Chemistry Senior Seminar (CHEM480).  I have also taught Thermodynamics and Kinetics (CHEM341) and Quantum Chemistry (CHEM441).  In the spring of 2014 I will be teaching an Advanced Topics (CHEM482) course on Cell Membranes.

The chemical and physical properties of lipids play an important role in the function of cells, yet they are not completely understood.  I am interested in lipid membranes and membrane dynamics.  In particular, I am interested in lipid-lipid, lipid-protein, and lipid-small molecule interactions and the role of these interactions in cell function.

Research Presentations (* indicate Earlham undergraduates)   

1.  Colton M. Miller*, Stephen J. Hornak IV*, and Kalani J. Seu. "Effect of Membrane Charge and Rigidity on EGCG Induced Leakage."  Presented at:   o  2013 Lilly Undergraduate Research Symposium (Eli Lilly & Company, August 2013)    o  246th ACS National Meeting (Indianapolis, IN, September 2013)  o  11th Annual Sci. Div. Undergraduate Research Poster Conference (Earlham College, Fall 2013)   

2.  R. Claire Palmarini*, Nathan C. Wallace*, and Kalani J. Seu. “The Effects of Lipid Composition on EGCG Induced Membrane Leakage.”  Presented at:   o  10th Annual Sci. Div. Undergraduate Research Poster Conference (Earlham College, Fall 2012)  o  Indiana Local Section of the ACS 13th Annual Poster Session (Martin University, October 2012)   

3.  Nigel Purcell*, Anna-Mariya Kukuyan*, and Kalani J. Seu. “FTIR investigation of peptide hydration in lipid bilayers.”   Presented at:   o  Indiana Local Section of the ACS 12th Annual Poster Session (Eli Lilly & Company, October 2011)  o  David Dawson Inauguration Student Showcase / 9th Annual Sci. Div. Undergraduate Research Poster Conference (Earlham College, October 2011)   

4.  Nathanial Torres* and Kalani J. Seu. “The Effects of Lipid Composition on EGCG Induced Membrane Leakage.”   Presented at:   o  Indiana Local Section of the ACS 12th Annual Poster Session (Eli Lilly & Company, October 2011)  o  David Dawson Inauguration Student Showcase / 9th Annual Sci. Div. Undergraduate Research Poster Conference (Earlham College, October 2011)   

5.  Karman J. Duchon*, Jessica R. Jensen*, and Kalani J. Seu. “Secondary Structural Investigation of Surfactant Peptide KL4 in Lipid Membranes Using FTIR.”  Presented at:   o  8th Annual Sci. Div. Undergraduate Research Poster Conference (Earlham College, October 2010)   

6.  Megan R. Huttleston*, Shelly L. Surma*, and Kalani J. Seu. “FTIR investigation of peptide hydration in lipid bilayers.”  Presented at:   o  Earlham College Annual Research Conference (Earlham College, April 2010)  o  7th Annual Sci. Div. Undergraduate Research Poster Conference (Earlham College, October 2009)  o  Indiana Local Section of the ACS 10th Annual Poster Session (Dow AgroSciences, October 2009)

American Chemical Society

Biophysical Society

As an Earlham alumni I valued my experience at Earlham and learned the importance of a liberal arts education. Soon after going to graduate school I realized that I wanted to work in academia at a small liberal arts institution. Fortunately I've been given the opportunity to return to Earlham and share this experience with others.

Earlham students are passionate, eccentric, and socially conscious.

I've worked with students on a couple of different projects.  Most recently I have been working with a team of four students on a project investigating the effect of lipid membrane charge and rigidity on epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) induced membrane leakage.  EGCG is an antioxidant extracted from green tea and it has recently shown promise as a therapeutic for HIV, cancer, and many other disorders.  Recent work has shown that EGCG interacts with cell membranes, yet the mechanism of this interaction is not completely understood. Through the use of a fluorescent lipid vesicles leakage assay, our group has gained some insights into this mechanism.

I enjoy movies, bowling, and home projects.

I have several aquariums and enjoy designing planted tanks and raising freshwater tropical fish.

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