Sally C. Pias

Assistant Professor

Department of Chemistry

Jones Annex 205


Tel: (575) 835-6204

Fax: (575) 835-5364

E-mail: spias{at}nmt{dot}edu




We are currently using computer simulations to investigate the movement of oxygen molecules through fatty cellular structures, including biological membranes and intracellular neutral lipid droplets. In particular, we hope to clarify 1) the precise role of membrane cholesterol in modulating oxygen diffusion, 2) the influence of salt concentration and pH on oxygen passage through membranes, and 3) the possible significance of fatty acid saturation and quantity in altering the permeability of intracellular lipid droplets to molecular oxygen.

These phenomena are clinically relevant, with particular significance for understanding the hypoxic metabolism of cancer cells and for explaining a known relationship between intracellular lipid accumulation and diabetic insulin resistance. Adequate and timely oxygen access to mitochondria within the cellular interior is crucial to cellular function, due to its essential role in aerobic metabolism, by which cells harvest energy from food and from stored fats. Based on experimental, clinical, and chemical evidence, we suspect that limited oxygen passage through fatty cellular structures contributes to both diabetic insulin resistance and cancer cell survival. We are using molecular dynamics simulations to examine dynamics and free energy of oxygen passage into and across model lipid bilayers and neutral fat droplets, with the intent of generating insight useful in treating cancer and diabetes, among other diseases involving reduced aerobic metabolism.


Research Group

Postdoctoral Researcher:

Dr. Ana West (completed her PhD under Prof. James Kindt at Emory University)

Graduate Students:

J. Ryan Bredin, Ryan Shea, and Gary Angles


Michael Malett, David DeVries, and Angelica Cave

Currently recruiting Chemistry PhD students!

Please contact Dr. Pias to express your interest. International applicants may be eligible for a waiver of the application fee for graduate studies at New Mexico Tech.


Courses Taught

CHEM 441, Biochemistry I: Biomolecular Structure and Function

CHEM 441L, Biochemistry I Lab

CHEM 442, Biochemistry II: Biomolecular Mechanisms and Metabolism

CHEM 442L, Biochemistry II Lab

CHEM 122R, General Chemistry II Recitation


Link to CV