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Davita Watkins

Photograph of Dr. Davita Watkins

Davita Watkins

Associate Professor



183 CBEC
151 W. Woodruff Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210

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Areas of Expertise

  • Organic


A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Davita L. Watkins obtained her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Anthropology from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. As an undergraduate, she conducted research under the guidance of Dr. David Hercules and later Dr. Grace Zoorob. There, she cultivated an interest in synthetic development and analytical characterization methods. After working briefly as Lead Chemical Analyst for a bioanalytical company, she obtained a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Memphis under the tutelage of Dr. Tomoko Fujiwara. As a doctoral candidate, she developed and established multi-step synthetic methods for a series of stimuli-responsive molecules and polymeric materials, demonstrating potential applications in phase transfer catalysis, catalytic control, and drug delivery. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida with Dr. Ronald K. Castellano, she developed novel self-assembling organic materials for photovoltaic applications. In 2014, she began her independent academic career at the University of Mississippi. Her research focuses on establishing design guidelines towards novel functional materials with tunable properties through molecular self-assembly. The well-defined, programmable nanostructured materials produced in her laboratory are designed to be used in various applications, ranging from therapeutics to electronic devices. Within her first year at the university, she received the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Ralph E. Powe Award for her studies of noncovalent interactions in organic semiconducting devices. In the early part of 2017, she earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to catalyze the growth and sustainability of her novel research program that exploits sigma-hole interactions to optimize organic electronic materials. She has been named a 2018 Young Investigator by the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Division branch of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and was selected as an Emerging Investigator by the Royal Society of Chemistry Journal of Materials Chemistry C. In 2021, she was named a Trailblazer by Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) and an International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Young Observer. In 2022, she was named a Rising Star by ACS Women Chemists Committee (WCC) for her contributions to the field and service to the organization. She is currently on the editorial advisory board for ACS Omega and the Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry. Alongside her research efforts, Dr. Watkins has been an active voice for initiatives to increase minorities and women in STEM. She developed and directed a federally funded (National Science Foundation) four-week science initiative for minority women called Operation ICB (I Can Be) to introduce high school scholars to the laboratory setting and encourage them to pursue STEM-related degrees and careers.


Research Overview

The ability to control molecules and understand their organization into discrete nanoscale arrays that exhibit unique properties affords the opportunity for transformative advances in chemistry and material science. Specifically, for biomaterials and nanomedicine, structural and chemical variations at the molecular level will influence the morphology and mechanical properties as well as the stability and degradation rates of the resulting material. Employing novel supramolecular moieties and versatile amphiphilic constructs, the Watkins Research Group (WRG) studies how self-assembling behavior of polymeric materials contribute to uniform nanostructures with desirable physicochemical and mechanical properties. Their research efforts demonstrate the significant contribution of “bottom-up” approaches towards advanced functional materials for bio-imaging and theranostic nanomedicine.



Selected publications (see complete list of publications at http://watkinsresearchgroup.org/publications.html)

  1. Hamadani, C. M.; Chandrasiri, I.; Yaddehige, M. L; Dasanayake, G. S.; Owolabi, I.; Flynt, A.; Hossain, M.; Liberman, L.; Lodge, T. P.; Werfel, T. A.; Watkins, D. L.; Tanner, E. E. L., “Improved Nanoformulation and Bio-functionalization of Linear-Dendritic Block-co-Polymers with Biocompatible Ionic Liquids ”. Nanoscale 2022. ACCEPTED
  1. Sparks, N.; Dorris, A.; Vijayan, Vijayan, S. M.; Chandrasiri, I.; Zia, M. F.; Hammer, N. I.; Flynt, A.; Watkins, D. L., “Amphiphilic Self-assembling Isoindigo-based Donor-Acceptor Fluorophore for Near-infrared Bioimaging Applications”. Mol. Syst. Des. Eng. 2022. ACCEPTED
  2. Chandrasiri, I.; Yaddehige, M. L; Li, B; Sun, Y; Meador, W.; Dorris, A.; Zia, M. F.; Hammer, N. I.; Flynt, A.;  Delcamp, J. H.; Davis, E.; Lippert, A.; and Watkins, D. L. “Crosslinking PCL-PAMAM Linear Dendritic Block Copolymers (LDBC) for Theranostic Nanomedicine,” ACS App. Poly. Mater., 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acsapm.1c01131
  3. Don, R. W.; Dowell, T. J.; Simms, B. L.; Watkins, D. L.; Wipf, D. O.; and Scott, C.N. “Polyrhodamine: A pH-responsive redox stable conducting polyelectrolyte,” Polym. Chem., 2021, DOI: 10.1039/D1PY01474A.
  4. Ndaleh, D.; Smith, C.; Yaddehige, M. L.; Shaik, A.; Watkins, D. L.; Hammer, N. I.; Delcamp, J. H. “Shortwave Infrared Absorptive and Emissive Pentamethine-Bridged Indolizine Cyanine Dyes,” J. Org. Chem., 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.1c01908.
  5. Chatterjee, S.; Meador, W.; Smith, C.; Chandrasiri, I.; Zia, M. F.; Dorris, A.; Flynt, A.; Watkins, D. L.; Hammer, N. I.; Delcamp, J. H. “SWIR Emissive RosIndolizine Dyes and Nanoencapsulation of the Dyes in Water Soluble Dendrimers,” RSC Adv, 2021, 10.1039/d1ra05479a.
  6. Ranathunge, T. A.; Yaddehige, M. L; and Watkins, D. L. “Heteroacene-Based Amphiphile as a Molecular Scaffold for Bioimaging Probes,” Front. Chem.: Suprastars of Chemistry Edition, 2021, 10.3389/fchem.2021.729125.
  7. Simms, B. L.; Chandrasiri, I.; Rieger, W. D.; Yaddehige, M. L; Williams, J. S. D.; and Watkins, D. L. “Physicochemical Properties and Bio-Interfacial Interactions of Surface Modified PDLLA-PAMAM Linear Dendritic Block Copolymers (LDBCs),” J. Polym. Sci., 2021, DOI: 10.1002/pol.20210448.

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