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Scientific Research

During my time in Academia, I've worked on many fun research projects. My research was mainly focused on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and its various applications in studying materials. My two main research topics were:​

  • Cultural Heritage

  • NMR Crystallography

Cultural Heritage

My research in the cultural heritage field is focused on using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) in a non-invasive way to study precious objects of cultural heritage. These studies can help identify the best ways to conserve our world heritage.

I started working in the cultural heritage field during my PhD, when I was using mobile NMR (the NMR-MOUSE) to analyze ancient mummies and bones to assess their state of conservation. Some of the “samples” I was working on included Oetzi (the Iceman), an Egyptian mummy head, a Peruvian mummy, and several bones, including the tibia of Charlemagne.

ancient mummies and bones research - Maria Baias

My cultural heritage research at NYU Abu Dhabi was focused on two art-related projects:

Cultural Heritage Project 1: Developing a method that can help in identifying forgeries in paintings—collaboration with the State Criminal Police Office in Berlin. For this project, we analyzed the forgeries of a famous art forger named Wolfgang Beltracchi. We compared our NMR results on the forgeries with the results we obtained on the authentic paintings to establish a protocol to discriminate between forgeries and authentic paintings.

Beltracchi forgeries research - Maria Baias

Cultural Heritage Project 2: Analyzing old master violins to understand the science behind building such exquisite instruments—collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and Museo del Violino in Cremona. In this project, we analyzed the violins from the museums' collections (including Amati, Stradivari, and Ruggeri violins) to understand the effects of surface treatments, wood treatment, and possible wood degradation. For our experiments, we used mobile NMR (the Profile NMR-MOUSE) as a non-invasive tool to study these precious violins. 

violin research with the NMR-MOUSE - Maria Baias

NMR Crystallography

The development of NMR crystallography (NMRX), a method that employs a combined experimental and computational approach for structural elucidation of powdered crystalline materials, opened new paths for exploring pharmaceutical polymorphism. Solid-state NMR investigation of pharmaceutical drugs is faced with two major drawbacks: the low sensitivity of NMR experiments involving nuclei such as 13C, 15N at natural abundance and long 1H T1 relaxation times of many pharmaceuticals. The consequence of these cumulative effects is a very long experimental time for signal averaging required to obtain a sufficiently high signal-to-noise ratio in two-dimensional NMR spectra, which are essential for the unambiguous chemical shift assignment of the investigated structure.

In my research at NYUAD, I focused on further developing NMR crystallography by using new experimental and computational techniques that are more appropriate for studying complex organic molecular crystals. Experimentally, we used Dynamic Nuclear Polarization (DNP)-enhanced solid-state NMR to reduce the experimental time, allowing us to tackle more complex structures. Computationally, we focused on Ab Initio Random Structure Searching (AIRSS) as a computational crystal structure prediction protocol to predict the polymorphs of organic molecular crystals.

In NMR crystallography, we combine the solid-state NMR experiments and the computational crystal structure prediction to determine de novo crystal structure of materials. My research was focused on applications of NMR crystallography to study pharmaceutical polymorphism.

NMR Crystallography - Maria Baias