Haishi Cao, Ph.D.

Professor, Organic Chemistry

Office: BHS 411D   |    Phone: (308) 865-8105   |    Email: caoh1@unk.edu

Haishi Cao



Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, 2004
M.Sc., Biochemistry, Jilin University (China), 1999
B.Sc., Biochemistry, Jilin University (China), 1995

Research Interest

Fluorescence sensing, Chemosensor, Molecular recognition and Detection of toxic ions and biological molecules.

Faculty Appointments

2017-Present, Professor, Department of Chemistry, UNK
2012-2017, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, UNK
2007-2012, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, UNK

Research Area

My research program focuses on using synthetic methods to prepare organic molecules functionalized as analytical approaches to quantitatively measure small molecules with extremely low concentration in the nature on the basis of spectroscopic information. My research interest includes: 1) design novel sensing switches with high affinity and sensitivity to target molecules based on molecular recognition; 2) develop novel fluorescent molecules and understand their fluorescence features; 3) use designed sensing approaches to investigate the roles of important molecules in the biological systems; 4) use nanoparticles to improve the stability and permeability of fluorescence sensors for their biological applications.


 ǂ denotes undergraduate author in UNK, * denotes corresponding author 

32. Jeong, C-H.ǂ; Ahmad, A.ǂ; Schmitz, H.ǂ; Cao, H.*, Synthesis and investigation of derivatives of 1,8-naphthalimide with a long emission wavelength via an aromatic nucleophilic substitution reaction. J. Fluoresc., 2022, 32, 427-433
31. Everitt, K. R.ǂ; Schmitz, H. C.ǂ; Macke, A.ǂ; Shan, J.ǂ; Jang, E.ǂ; Luedtke, B. E.; Carlson, K. A.;  Cao, H.*, Investigation of a sensing strategy based on nucleophilic addition reaction for quantitative detection of bisulfite (HSO3-), J. Fluoresc., 2020, 30, 977-983.
30. Houtwed, H.ǂ; Xie, M.ǂ; Ahmad, A.ǂ; Masters, C. D.ǂ; Davison, M.ǂ; Ding, T.ǂ; Kounovsky-Shafer, K.; Cao, H.*, Analysis of bisulfite via a nitro derivative of Cyanine-3 (NCy3) in the microfluidic channel, J. Fluoresc., 2019, 29, 523-529. 
29.Jang, E.ǂ; Ding, T.ǂ; Xie, M.ǂ; Cao, H.*, Investigation of photophysical properties of 1,8-naphthalimides with an extended conjugation on naphthalene moiety via Suzuki coupling reaction, J. Photochem. Photobiol., A  2018, 364, 145-150                     
28.  Kim, G.ǂ; Jang, E.ǂ; Page, A.M.ǂ; Ding, T.ǂ; Carlson, K.A.; Cao, H.*, Investigation of a sensing approach on a rapid reduction of azide to selectively measure bioavailability of H2S, RSC Advances, 2016, 6, 95920-95924.                      
27. Bamesberger, A.ǂ; Kim, G.ǂ; Woo, Jǂ.; Cao, H.*, Reduction of nitro group on derivative of 1,8-naphthalimide for quantitative detection of hydrogen sulfide, J. Fluoresc., 2015, 25, 25-29.
26. Woo, J.ǂ; Kim, G.ǂ; Qintero, K.ǂ;Hanrahan, M.P.ǂ; Palencia. H.; Cao, H.*, Investigation of desilylation in the recognition mechanism to fluoride by a 1,8-naphthalimide derivative, Org. Biomol. Chem., 2014, 12, 8275-8279.
25. Song, Q. ǂ; Bamesberger, A. ǂ; Yang, L. ǂ; Houtwed, H. ǂ; Cao, H.*, Excimer-monomer switch: a reaction-based approach for selective detection of fluoride, Analyst, 2014, 139, 3588-3592.  
24. Bamesbergera, A.ǂ; Schwartza, C.; Song, Q. ǂ; Han, W.; Wang, Z.; Cao, H.*, Rational design of a rapid fluorescent approach for detection of inorganic fluoride in MeCN/H2O: a new fluorescence switch based aryl-1,8-naphthalimide, New. J. Chem., 2014, 38, 884-888.
23.Yang, L. ǂ; Song, Q. ǂ; Damit-Og, K. ǂ; Cao, H.*, Synthesis and spectral investigation of a turn-on fluorescence sensor with high affinity to Cu2+, Sensor Actuat B-Chem., 2013, 176, 181-185.
22. Wang, J. ǂ; Yang, L. ǂ; Hou, C. ǂ; Cao, H.*, A new N-imidazol-1,8-naphthalimide based fluorescence sensor for fluoride detection, Org. Biomol. Chem., 2012, 10, 6271-6274.
21. Hou, C. ǂ; Urbanec, A.M. ǂ; and Cao, H.*, A rapid Hg2+ sensor based on aza-15-crown-5 ether functionalized 1,8-naphthalimide Tetrahedron Lett., 2011, 4903-4905.
20. Hou, C. ǂ; Xiong, Y.; Fu, N.; Jacquot, C.C. ǂ; Squier, T.C.; and Cao, H.*, Turn-On ratiometric fluorescent sensor toward Pb(II) detection Tetrahedron Lett., 2011, 2692-2696.
19. Yang, Y. ǂ; Gou, X.; Blecha, J. ǂ; Cao, H.*, A highly selective pyrene based fluorescent sensor toward Hg2+ detection Tetrahedron Lett., 2010, 3422-3425.
18. Gou, X.; Cao, H.*, Undergraduate chemistry education in Chinese universities J. Chem. Educ.2010, 87 (6) 575-577.

Publication Prior to UNK

17. Cao, H.; Xiong, Y.; Wang, T.; Squier, T.C.; Mayer, M. U., A red cy3-based biarsenical fluorescent probe targeted to a complementary binding peptide J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2007, 129, 8672-8673, Highlighted in Nature, 2007, 448, July 5th, 4
16. Chen, B.; Cao, H.; Yan, P; Mayer, M.U.; Squier, T.C., Identification of an orthogonal peptide binding motif for biarsenical multiuse affinity probes Bioconjugate Chem., 2007, 1269-1265.
15. Cao, H.; Chen, B.; Squier, T.C.; Mayer, M.U., CrAsH: A biarsenical multi-use affinity probe with low non-specific fluorescence Chem. Commun. 2006, 2601-2603.
14. Cao, H.; Chang, V.; Hernandez, R.; Heagy, M.D., Matrix library screening of substituted N-Aryl-1,8-naphthalimides reveals new dual fluorescent dyes and unusually bright pyridine derivatives J.Org .Chem., 2005, 70, 4929-4934.
13. Cao, H.; McGill, T.; Heagy, M.D., Sustituent effects on monoboronic acid sensors for saccharides based on N -phenyl-1,8-naphthalenedicarboximides J. Org. Chem., 2004, 2959-2966.
12. Cao, H.; Heagy, M.D., Fluorescent chemosensors for carbohydrates: A decade’s worth of bright spies for saccharides in review J. Fluorescence, 2004, 569-584.
11. Geddes, CD.; Cao, H.; Gryczynski, I.; Gryczynski, Z.; Fang, J.; Lakowicz, J.R., Metalenhanced fluorescence (MEF) due to silver solloids on a planar surface: potential applications of indocyanine green to in vivo imaging J. Phys. Chem. A , 2003, 3443-3449.
10. Geddes, C.D.; Cao, H.; Lakowicz, J.R., Enhanced photostability of ICG in close proximity to gold colloids Spectrochimica Acta A, 2003, 2611-2617.
9. Sun, H.; Cao, H.; Luo, G., Preparation and property of palmitoyl modified SOD Chinese J. Bioprocess. Eng., 2003, 47-51.
8. Cao, H.; Diaz, D.I.; DiCesare, N.; Lakowicz, J.R., Heagy, M.D., Monoboronic acid sensor that displays anomalous fluorescence sensitivity to glucose Org. Lett., 2002, 1503-1505.
7. Liang, F.; Wu, Y.; Cao, H.; Guo, H.; Liu, L.; Sun, H.; Chen, W.; Liu, S., Chemical modification of human plasminogen Chem. J. Chinese Univ. 2001, 22(4) 577-580.
6. Xu, J.; Ma, J.; Xu, H.; Ma, Z.; Kong, X.; Cao, H.; Guo, H.; Liu, L., Separation and purification of pullulan and its function to protect polyphenol tea in green tea Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universitatis Jilinensis, 2001, 88-90.
5. Cao, H.; Sun, H.; Liang, F.; Guo, H.; Liu, L., Purification and identification of pulullan Chem. J. Chinese Univ. 1999, 20(12) 78-84.
4. Yang, F.; Guo, H.; Xu, H.; Cao, H.; Liu, L., Biochemical analyses of the thrombin-like enzyme product from the venom of agkistrodon halys ussuriensis emilianov Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universitatis Jilinensis, 1999, (2) 79-82.
3. Yang, F.; Xu, H.; Guo, H;, Cao, H.; Liu, L., Purification and quality control of thrombin-Like enzyme from venom of agkistrodon halys ussuriensis emilianov Chin. J. Biologicals, 1999, (12) 100-102.
2. Qiu, A.; Sun, H.; Zhong, H.; Liu, S.; Zhao, C.; Wu, Y.; Cao, H.; Liu, L., Purification and properties of human plasminogen Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universitatis Jilinensis, 1998, (3) 79-81.
1. Zhao, H.; Li, C.; Xue, Y.; Zhang, L.; Cao, H.; Guo, H.; Liu, L., Mutation and screening of high production strain of pullulan Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universitatis Jilinensis, 1998, (3) 75-78.

Research Opportunities

Our group are offering research opportunities to UNK students regardless majors. Currently, several programs are available to help students initiate research. Please feel free to contact Dr. Cao if you are interesting in research, particularly for organic/bioorganic chemistry.