Darren Hamilton works with students on a variety of projects that use the tools of synthetic organic chemistry to prepare molecular systems with designed properties or functions. Some of Hamilton's work may be regarded as fundamental research. For example, he is studying the manner in which two complementary molecular partners bind to one another. These processes can be usefully studied in small model systems, while the answers obtained have significance to the much larger-scale processes of biological recognition.On the applied research side, Hamilton and his student protégées are preparing molecular systems that can bind and transport, or bind and recognize, a species of interest. Current projects in this area involve the preparation of transport systems for metal ions employed in medical imaging techniques, as well as the development of a prototype molecular construct for carbohydrate recognition. A direct, but unexpected, application of the work on complementary binding has been the development of a new class of liquid crystalline materials (see "Katherine McMenimen '03 and Her Marvelous Molecule," below).
Hamilton recently received a new three-year award from the American Chemical Society's Petroleum Research Fund to continue work previously funded by this agency. The grant will allow Hamilton and his students to build on their early work and create second-generation "designer molecules" for the molecular recognition projects. Additional grants from the Research Corporation (2000) and the Dreyfus Foundation (2001) underpin the research program. His research with undergraduate students has been published most recently in the Journal of Organic Chemistry, Crystal Growth and Design, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.