Forever True, For Iowa State

Chemistry for the people

Chemistry is Robbyn Anand’s passion. People are her inspiration.

“The common theme in my research is making diagnostics accessible for people in order to improve their lives,” says Anand, the Carlyle G. Caldwell Endowed Chair in Chemistry, inaugural holder of the Subra Suresh Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of chemistry at Iowa State.

It’s what pushes Anand – and hundreds other faculty researchers across campus – to pursue innovations that promise to transform the world. Indeed, it’s their passion that fueled thousands of donors’ generosity to the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign, enabling the campaign to surpass its $1.5 billion goal.

For instance, when many of her students had to quarantine while awaiting COVID-19 test results, interrupting their studies and research, Anand went to work developing an inexpensive home diagnostic test. Designed to detect COVID-19 proteins in saliva, Anand’s test can provide reliable results within an hour.

Another example: A dear friend of Anand’s survived a rare form of cancer yet continued to worry about the disease returning. Working in electrochemistry and separation science, Anand created an award-winning and potentially commercial device that detects circulating cancerous tumor cells in the bloodstream.

And in yet another example, her brother’s advanced kidney disease drove Anand to invent a microfluidic device that could someday treat his illness. Anand’s goal is to develop a wearable device that replaces hemodialysis, a typically hospital-based procedure.

“It’s all about improving the health and quality of life for the people I know and people I will never meet,” she says.