Christa L. Colyer


Office: Salem Hall, 010A 
Phone: (336) 758-4936


B.Sc. (Honours) 1988, Trent University (Peterborough, Canada)
M.Sc. (Distinction) 1991, University of Guelph (Guelph, Canada)
Ph.D. 1995, Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada)
NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow 1995-97, University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada)
Assistant Professor 1997-2003, Wake Forest University
Dunn-Riley Faculty Fellow 2002-03, Wake Forest University
Associate Professor 2003-04, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (Oshawa, Canada)
Associate Professor 2004-2010, Wake Forest University
Department Chair 2006 – 2014, Wake Forest University
Professor 2010 – present, Wake Forest University
Associate Dean for Academic Planning 2016 – present, Wake Forest University

Research Description

Research Interests: Analytical chemistry; separations method development; aptamer discovery; biomolecule and drug analysis.

Current project: “Carbon dots and squarylium dyes for sensing, screening, and separations.”

Analytical tools capable of adaptation to a wide range of analyte types and sample matrices are invaluable in an increasingly interdisciplinary scientific landscape. Such tools must be able to deliver high efficiency and high sensitivity measurements, especially for targets relevant to human health and safety. Basic research is needed to explore, develop, and assess new analytical tools; and when conducted in collaboration with industry, such research is empowered to deliver transformational outcomes by way of direct application to market-driven or socially relevant problems. As such, it is the overarching aim of the Colyer lab to explore and apply carbon dots (CDs) and squarylium (SQ) dyes as tools for analytical sensing, screening, and separations method development. These explorations involve genuine partnerships with industry and international labs, which provide an avenue for translation of basic science findings into applied analytical practices by the medication monitoring and forensic testing industry. Our work exposes students to industry practices and standards as a path to career readiness while also providing opportunities for increased global and cultural competencies.

In particular, we aim to develop high efficiency, modified capillary transient isotachophoresis (ctITP) methods employing squarylium dyes for drug and drug metabolite detection. The focusing effects characteristic of transient isotachophoresis provide enhanced sensitivity and resolution in free solution, capillary-based electroseparations, as required for drug monitoring. Advances including on-column labeling with novel, functionalized squarylium dye design, and improved analyte discrimination based on multiple discriminant analysis are pursued in order to facilitate selective determination of drug and drug metabolites in complex sample matrices, as required by confirmation testing in the medication monitoring industry. In particular, glucuronide metabolites and synthetic cathinones (illicit drugs also known as “bath salts”) are examples of targets being studied by these methods.

Additionally, we aim to select DNA aptamers against analytically relevant, small molecule drug targets to facilitate the development of rapid screening assays. The ability to rapidly discover functional ligands capable of screening for drug targets has the potential to transform forensic testing and the medication monitoring industry by providing an alternative to the ubiquitous use of enzyme immunoassay screening procedures. Building upon methods we have established, which employ modified capillary transient isotachophoresis (ctITP) for differentiating and collecting biomolecular target-bound DNA aptamers from a vast library coupled to next-generation sequencing for aptamer characterization and development, current projects exploit carbon dots as buffer modifiers. Carbon dots can serve to both fluorescently tag and modify the mobility of unbound DNA library members, thus enabling expedited DNA aptamer discovery for small drug molecule targets. In particular, cannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids constitute the initial focus of our work. Recent changes to U.S. states’ laws regarding recreational marijuana use; increasing medical use of marijuana for pain management; and increasing prevalence of designer drugs (e.g. K2/Spice) highlight the need for rapid screening and sensing tools such as those we seek to develop in our lab.


D. Roy, and C.L. Colyer, Nitrogen-doped carbon dots aid in the separation of ssDNA molecules of different length by capillary transient isotachophoresis (ctITP) with laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) detection, J. Chromatogr. A 1641, 461990, doi:10.1016/j.chroma.2021.461990 (2021).

L. R. Sirkisoon, H.C. Makamba, S. Saito, and C.L. Colyer, Carbon dot-mediated capillary electrophoresis separations of metallated and demetallated forms of transferrin protein molecules, Molecules 24 (1916); doi:10.3390/molecules24101916 (2019).

J. Ishikawa, A.Maeshima, A. Mellinger, A. Durand, M.-L. Bourbon, D. Higo, C. L. Colyer, M. Shibukawa, S. Ouchane, and S. Saito, Two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis for metalloprotein analysis based on differential chemical structure recognition by CBB dye, Scientific Reports 9 (1) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-46955-6 (2019).

D. Roy, O. T. Cummings, E. C. Strickland, A. L. Mellinger, C. L. Colyer, and G. L. McIntire, Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry method for novel psychoactive substances: Kratom and synthetic cathinones in urine, LC/GC (Current trends in mass spectrometry) 16: 6-10 (2018).

M. M. Sebaiy, and C.L. Colyer, Polymer enhanced capillary transient isotachophoresis with boronic acid functionalized squarylium dyes for the fluorescent determination of digoxin and digoxigenin, Analytical Letters DOI:10.1080/00032719.2017.1312426 (2017).

S.S. Abd El-Hay, and C.L. Colyer, Development of high-throughput method for measurement of vascular nitric oxide generation in microplate reader, Molecules 22 (127); doi:10.3390/molecules22010127 (2017).

C. H. Stuart, K.R. Riley, O. Boyacioglu, D.M. Herpai, W. Debinski, S. Qasem, F.C. Marini, C. Colyer, and W.H. Gmeiner, Selection of a novel aptamer against Vitronectin using capillary electrophoresis and Next Generation Sequencing, Molecular Therapy – Nucleic Acids. 5(11):e386-. doi:10.1038/mtna.2016.91 (2016).

K.R. Riley, S. Liu, G. Yu, K. Libby, R. Cubicciotti, and C.L. Colyer, Using capillary electrophoresis to characterize polymeric particles. J. Chromatogr. A 1463: 169-175 (2016).

M.M. Sebaiy, A.A. El-Shanawany, M.M. Baraka, L.M. Abdel-Aziz, T.A. Isbell, and C.L. Colyer, Determination of morphine and its metabolites in human urine by capillary electrophoresis with laser induced fluorescence detection employing on-column labeling with a new boronic acid functionalized squarylium cyanine dye. Chromatography 3, 1; doi:10.3390/chromatography3010001 (2016).

M.M. Sebaiy, A.A. El-Shanawany, M.M. Baraka, L.M. Abdel-Aziz, and C.L. Colyer, Monofunctional and bifunctional boronic acid functionalized squarylium dyes as non-covalent protein labels: A fluorimetric study. J. Drug Des. Res. 2(3): 1019 (2015).

T.A. Isbell, E.C. Strickland, J. Hitchock, G. McIntire, and C.L. Colyer, CE-TOF-MS Determination of Morphine and its Isobaric Glucuronide Metabolites.  J. Chromatogr. B 980: 65-71 (2015).

K.R. Riley, J. Gagliano, J. Xiao, K. Libby, S. Saito, V. Yu, R. Cubicciotti, J. Macosko, C.L. Colyer, M. Guthold, and K. Bonin, Combining capillary electrophoresis and next generation sequencing for aptamer selection. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 407: 1527-1532 (2015).

K. Ouchi, C.L. Colyer, M. Sebaiy, J. Zhou, T. Maeda, H. Nakazumi, M. Shibukawa, and S. Saito, Molecular Design of Boronic Acid-Functionalized Squarylium Cyanine Dyes for Multiple Discriminant Analysis of Sialic Acid in Biological Samples: Selectivity Toward Monosaccharides Controlled by Different Alkyl Side Chain Lengths. Anal. Chem. 87: 1933-1940 (2015).

K.R. Riley, S. Saito, J. Gagliano, and C.L. Colyer, Facilitating aptamer selection and collection by capillary transient isotachophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence detection.  J. Chromatog. A  1368: 183-189 (2014).

Awards and Accomplishments

2015-2018Robert & Debra Lee Faculty Fellowship, Wake Forest University
2014-2015Reynolds Research Leave, Wake Forest University
2013Wake Forest University Teaching Innovation Award
2007Wake Forest University Award for Excellence in Advising
2005-2009Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Wake Forest University
2002-2003Dunn-Riley Faculty Fellow, Wake Forest University
2002Wake Forest University Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching