Meet Dr. David Bwambok
Where do you call home?
I was born and raised in Kenya. My hometown in the Kenyan highlands has earned the name “source of champions” in reference to being home to several Kenyan athletes who are world record holders in running; some of whom are competing at the ongoing Olympics in Tokyo.
I completed undergraduate studies in science education at Moi University back home in Kenya with a major in Chemistry and Physics. I then moved to the United States for graduate studies where I earned a Master of Science in Organic Chemistry from State University of New York at Binghamton and a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from Louisiana State University. Following my graduation, I took a postdoctoral research position at the Advanced Materials Research Institute (AMRI) at the University of New Orleans. At AMRI, my research focused on developing multifunctional, biocompatible protein-based nanomaterials for cancer diagnosis and therapy. I then received a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University where my research focused on development of paper-based microfluidic devices for low-cost diagnosis of disease biomarkers and density-based methods for separation of pharmaceutical crystal polymorphs used in drug development.
After postdoctoral training, I joined industry as a senior scientist at the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry where I worked on developing new synthetic methods and products while minimizing or eliminating hazards in the environment. After three years in industry, I joined academia and have previously taught and mentored students in research at California State University San Marcos. I am indeed excited and look forward to continue inspiring students and contribute to their success through teaching and research mentorship at Ball State University!
What initially drew you to your field of study?
Growing up in the Kenyan highlands, I was always intrigued by herbal medicine that was used to treat common ailments. As a result of this curiosity, I participated in research during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies that focused on extracting natural products and isolating active pharmaceutical ingredients. My interest in scientific research was ignited at the time and this passion for science and teaching motivated me into an academic career.
Where do you focus your research?
My research is interdisciplinary with an emphasis on Bioanalytical Chemistry (interface of Chemistry and Biology). Diseases worldwide and particularly in resource-limited countries cause preventable deaths due lack of early diagnosis. Following the recent pandemic, we have learned the need to develop diagnostic methods for infectious diseases that maybe used on short notice. I am interested in development of luminescent chemical probes for low-cost diagnosis of disease biomarkers on paper-based devices that can be readily used at the point of care. An example is to use paper-based device for early detection of plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase enzyme which is a biomarker for malaria. The possibility of integrating this diagnostic technique to a cell phone will contribute to the field of m-health which will increase accessibility to healthcare, save lives and improve the quality of life in resource-limited regions.
I am also interested in designing task-specific ionic liquid materials for forensic analysis, biomedical sensors, and environmental remediation. These environmentally benign ionic materials do not generate hazards, an important consideration for environmental sustainability. Another research area focuses on developing multifunctional albumin nanoparticles with near infrared fluorescent probes and chemotherapeutic agents for biomedical imaging and synergistic treatment of tumors.
What drew you to Ball State? First-year goals?
I was attracted to the Department of Chemistry at Ball State University because it offers a unique interdisciplinary environment for collaboration in my proposed research. Through my interactions with faculty and staff, I found the chemistry department to be welcoming, very friendly and work together as a team despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Given my research experience in industry, I was impressed by the opportunity for corporate partnership between the Chemistry department and the chemical companies in the region. This provides valuable research experience for students outside their research labs at Ball State.
I strongly felt that I will be able to inspire the students and create a greater impact by sharing my research experiences from industry and building collaborations with corporate partners on innovative research projects from our lab at Ball State University. As our BSU motto says “we fly”, I believe these collaborative opportunities will provide “wings” for the students to fly to new horizons in their scientific careers.
In addition, it was impressive to learn of the research support provided by the sponsored projects administration. I was also drawn to Ball State University due to its commitment to inclusive excellence as part of community and culture. By sharing my background and experiences, I hope to inspire some of the students who may have any doubts that they too can do it, and motivate them to achieve their dreams in a scientific discipline.
My goals this year are to get to know my students, share with them my passion for teaching and research, establish infrastructure for my research program and build a research group with students interested in science and eager to learn the various techniques that are used to solve scientific problems. I will participate in workshops with the goal of developing effective teaching and active learning strategies in order to provide students with quality instruction. In addition, I look forward to provide service to the University through participation in committees at the Department, College and University level.
What are your favorite hobbies?
Outside of teaching and research, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, running, watching sports and playing volleyball, soccer, and basketball.
Anything else to help the CSH community get to know you?
I am excited at the opportunity to contribute to student success at BSU and the community through outreach activities. I enjoy inspiring students and future scientists through STEM activities for K-12 and undergraduate students which may be on campus, in my lab or in the community. I believe these activities help to motivate students into STEM careers and create future generation of scientists who will provide solutions to critical problems in our world.