Timothy Hanks

Timothy Hanks

Charles Ezra Daniel Professor and Chair of Chemistry

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Tim Hanks joined the Chemistry Department at Furman University in 1990. He is currently Charles Ezra Daniel Professor and Chair of Chemistry at Furman and also an Adjunct Professor in the Chemistry Department at Clemson University. He has held positions as a Visiting Professor in the Clemson School of Materials Science and Visiting Scientist at Départment du Recherche Fondamentale sur la Matiére Condensée, Commissariat á l’Energie Atomique in Grenoble, France.

Dr. Hanks is very active in the American Chemical Society (ACS). He holds the Awards Chair and Alternate Councilor positions for the Western Carolinas Section of the ACS, and he is a member of the ACS International Activities Committee. He has organized two Southeast Regional ACS meetings and has twice held the position of Chair of the SERMACS Board of Directors. He is also a recipient of the Ann Nalley Volunteer Services Award for the Southeast Region.

In 2011, Dr. Hanks spent six months as a Fulbright Senior Scholar and Visiting Scientist at the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at the University of Wollongong, Australia. He is the one of the Directors of Furman’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program and actively collaborates with researchers in Australia and Israel. His research group is responsible for more than seventy publications in professional journals and books. In 2017, he was awarded the South Carolina Governor’s Award for Excellence in Scientific Research at an Undergraduate Institution.


  • Ph.D., Montana State University
  • B.S., South Dakota School of Mines and Technology


The Hanks group is working in two broad areas of soft materials synthesis and characterization, taking inspiration and materials from nature to craft functional structures.1 The first involves the preparation of ionomeric composites composed of polycationic conducting polymers such as polypyrrole or poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) with biopolymers such as dextran sulfate or alginates. Our long-term goals are to create scaffolds for neural tissue engineering and coatings for nervous system implantable electrodes.

We are using 3D extrusion printers to build cell-infused constructs capable of external electrical stimulation.2 In related work, we have developed a method for modifying the surfaces of electronically conducting polymer films that allows for the control of protein adhesion and the prevention of biofouling. While initially of interest for implant materials, this technology also has wider applications as eco-friendly coatings in marine environments.3, 4, 5

A second area of interest is the assembly of liposomes for use in drug delivery and biosensing. Long chain diacetylene amphiphiles assemble into polymerizable vesicles that are intensely blue in color. Physical stress causes a dramatic color change to a red color and also “turns-on” fluorophores embedded in the bilayer that are quenched in the blue form. Surface derivatization of the structures results in an affinity for bacteria and other species and this interaction can be converted into the stress needed to trigger the sensing system.6, 7, 8 We have recently shown that multiple liposomes, each with a different surface modification and fluorophore, can give a fluorescent “fingerprint” characteristic of a particular pathogen. Polymerization of the vesicles also almost completely stops leakage of species entrapped in the aqueous liposome core. We are developing novel methods to “pop” the liposomes in response to external conditions in order to controllably release drugs or other encapsulants.

1 Introduction to Biomimicry and Bioinspiration in Chemistry Hanks, T. W.; Swiegers, G. F. in "Biomimicry and Bioinspiration in Chemistry" Swiegers, G. F. Ed. Wiley Inc., 2012.

2 Characterization of alginate-polypyrrole composites for tissue engineering scaffolds Wright, C.J.; Zhang, B.; Kuester, M.; Molino, P.J.; Hanks, T.W. Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. Conference: 10th World Biomaterials Congress. 2016. doi: 10.3389/conf.FBIOE.2016.01.00314.

3 Functionalised Inherently Conducting Polymers as Low Biofouling Materials Zhang, B.; Nagle, A.; Wallace, G.G.; Hanks, T.W.; Molino, P.J. Biofouling 2015, 31, 493-502.

4 Polymers with antifouling properties Australian Provisional Patent, Application Number 2013901089, 2013.

5 Modification of Polypyrrole/Biopolymer Composites for Controlled Cellular Adhesion Molino, P. J.; Zhang, B.; Wallace, G. G.; Hanks, T. W. Biofouling 2013, 29, 1155-1167.

6 Polydiacetylene sensor interaction with food sanitizers and surfactants Zhang, Y.; Northcutt, J.; Hanks, T. W.; Miller, I.; Pennington, W. T.; Jelinek, R.; Han, I. Food Chem. 2017, 221, 515-520.

7 Efficient Production of Fluorescent Polydiacetylene-containing Liposomes for Pathogen Detection and Identification Wright-Walker, C. J.; Hansen, C. E.; Evans, M. A.; Nyers, E. S. Hanks, T. W. MRS Proceed., 2013, 1569, mrss13-1569-qq01-03 doi:10.1557/opl.2013.1099.

8 Polydiacetylene-based Smart Packaging Hill, S. C.; Htet, Y.; Kauffman, J.; Han, I. Y. Dawson, P. L. Pennington, W. T. Hanks, T. W. in Physical Methods in Food Analysis ACS Symp. Ser., Vol. 1138, pp 137-154, Tunick, M. H.; Onwulata, C. I., Eds., American Chemical Society, Washington, DC. 2013.