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Dr. Rajesh Sunasee

Associate Professor of Chemistry
Organic Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, Nanochemistry

Portrait of Rajesh Sunasee

Rajesh Sunasee received his B.Sc. (Hons) in Chemistry with Business Management with first class honors in 2003 from the University of Mauritius, located on the tropical island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. He moved to Canada in 2004 to pursue his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry under the supervision of Prof. Clive at the University of Alberta. In 2010, he was awarded an NSERC industrial post-doctoral fellowship (IRDF) to join the medicinal laboratory of Prof. Deslongchamps at OmegaChem Inc. in Quebec, where he was involved in the design and synthesis of a library of steroids for nuclear receptors. He subsequently undertook a second post-doctoral stint in the biomaterials engineering group of Prof. Narain, under co-supervision of Prof. Thundat, where he was introduced to the wonderful field of nanotechnology.

Prior to joining SUNY Plattsburgh in 2013, Sunasee served as assistant professor in chemistry at Brandon University (2011–2012) and Cape Breton University (2012–2013) on limited term appointments, and as a visiting scientist (summer 2013) at the National Institute for Nanotechnology (Alberta) of the National Research Council of Canada. His current research interests combine aspects of organic chemistry and nanotechnology (nanochemistry), where the focus is on synthesis of organic molecules and surface modification of nanoparticles (cellulose nanocrystals) for biomedical applications. In his spare times, he enjoys mingling with the undergraduate chemistry society, traveling and playing soccer.


  • Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of Alberta, Canada (2009)
  • B.Sc (Hons) in Chemistry with Business Management, University of Mauritius (2003)

Post-Doctoral Appointments

  • NSERC IRDF Post-doctoral Fellow, OmegaChem Inc., Quebec, Canada (2009–2010; Area: Organic/Medicinal Chemistry)
  • Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta, Alberta, Canada (2011; Area: Materials Chemistry/Nanotechnology)

Professional Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Chemistry, SUNY Plattsburgh, NY, USA (2017–current)
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry, SUNY Plattsburgh, NY, USA (2013–2017)
  • Assistant Professor in Chemistry, Cape Breton University, Canada (2012–2013)
  • Assistant Professor in Chemistry, Brandon University, Canada (2011–2012)
  • Visiting Scientist, National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT), National Research Council, Alberta, Canada (summer 2012)
  • Chemistry Term Instructor, Alberta College, MacEwan University, Canada (2008–2009)
  • Educational Officer in Chemistry, Mauritius (2003–2004)

Awards & Honors

  • State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (2018)
  • New York State Assembly Citation (2018)
  • SUNY Presidential Research Award (2013–2014; 2016-2017; 2017–2018)
  • Certificate of Appreciation for Academic Advising (2016)
  • NYS/UUP Professional Development Award (2015)
  • SUNY Discretionary Salary Award (2014–2016)
  • NSERC Industrial Research & Development Fellowship (IRDF), Post-doctoral Fellowship, OmegaChem. Inc.
  • Graduate Student Teaching Assistant Award, University of Alberta
  • Graduate Student Teaching Award, University of Alberta
  • GSA Professional and Development Award, University of Alberta
  • J. Gordin Kaplan Travel Award, University of Alberta
  • Graduate Research & Teaching Assistantship Award, University of Alberta
  • B.Sc (Hons) First Class Honors, University of Mauritius
  • EPZ Undergraduate Scholarship Award, University of Mauritius


  • National Science Foundation (NSF-RUI): $329, 997 (2017–2020, with Dr. Ckless)
  • SUNY Presidential Research Awards: $14, 995 (2013–2014; 2016-2017; 2017-2018)
  • Mauritian Diaspora Research Funding Scheme: Rs 49,553 (2016)
  • RP Grant, Cape Breton University: $1000 (2012-2013)

Teaching Area (Organic Chemistry)

  • CHE 241: Organic Chemistry I
  • CHE 242: Organic Chemistry II
  • CHE240: Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry
  • CHE 425: Topics in Chemistry: Basics of Nanochemistry
  • CHE 491: Chemistry Seminar
  • CHE 495: Undergraduate Research
  • HON 499: Advanced Honors Project

Research Interests

  • Surface chemical modification of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs)
  • Design of functional CNCs-based materials
  • Toxicity/Immunogenicity of modified CNCs (in collaboration with Dr Ckless laboratory)
  • Development of green organic reactions

Undergraduate Research Honors Thesis and Independent Study Projects Supervision:

  • Supervised 7 undergraduate honors thesis research in the field of cellulose nanotechnology and organic synthesis (2013–present).
  • Over 35 SUNY undergraduate students have been involved in research as independent study.

Selected Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Sunasee, R*.; Hemraz, U. D. “Synthetic strategies for the fabrication of cationic surface-modified cellulose nanocrystals”. Fibers, 2018, 6, 15. (Invited review for a special issue)
  • Jimenez, A. S.; Jaramilo, F.; Hemraz, U. D.; Boluk, Y.; Ckless, K*.; Sunasee, R*. “Effect of surface organic coatings of cellulose nanocrystals on the viability of mammalian cell lines”, Nanotechnology, Science & Applications, 2017, 10, 123-136.
  • Guglielmo, A.; Sabra, A.; Elbery, M.; Cerveira, M. M.; Ghenov, F.; Sunasee, R*.; Ckless, K*. “A mechanistic insight into curcumin modulation of the IL-1β secretion and NLRP3 S-glutathionylation induced by needle-like cationic cellulose nanocrystals in myeloid cells,” Chemico-Biological Interactions, 2017, 274, 1-12.
  • Sunasee, R.*; Hemraz, U. D.; Ckless, K. “Cellulose nanocrystals: A versatile nanoplatform for emerging biomedical applications,” Expert Opinion in Drug Delivery, 2016, 13, 1243-1256.
  • Obaro-Best, O.; Reed, J.; Norfadilah, A.; Monahan, R.; Sunasee, R*. “Bismuth trichloride mediated cleavage of phenolic methoxymethyl ethers”, Synthetic Communication,2016, 46, 586-593.
  • Sunasee, R*.; Araoye, E.; Pyram, D.; Hemraz, U.D.; Boluk, Y.; Ckless, K.* “Cellulose nanocrystal cationic derivative induces NLRP3 inflammasome-dependent IL-1β secretion associated with mitochondrial ROS production,” Biochemistry & Biophysics Reports, 2015, 4, 1-9.
  • Sunasee, R.*.; Hemraz, U. D.; Burdick, J. S.; Ckless, K.; Boluk, Y. " Cationic cellulose nanocrystals: synthesis, characterization and cytotoxicity studies," Materials Research Society Proceedings, 2015, 1718, mrsf14-1718-b09-48.
  • Hemraz, U.D.; Campbell, K.A.; Burdick, J.S.; Ckless, K.; Boluk, Y.; Sunasee, R.* “Cationic poly(2-aminoethylmethacrylate) and poly(N-(2-aminoethylmethacrylamide) modified cellulose nanocrystals: Synthesis, characterization and cytotoxicity,” Biomacromolecules, 2015, 16, 319-325.
  • Hemraz, U.D.; Lu, A.; Sunasee, R.; Boluk, Y. “Structure of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) brushes and steric stability of their grafted cellulose nanocrystal dispersions,” Journal of Colloid Interface & Science, 2014, 430, 157-165.
  • Sunasee, R; Adokoh, C; Dwarka, J; Ravin Narain. “Therapeutic Potentials of Carbohydrate based Polymeric and Nanoparticles Systems”, Expert Opinion in Drug Delivery, 2014, 11, 1-18.
  • Hemraz, U.D.; Boluk, Y.; Sunasee, R.* “Amine-Decorated Nanocrystalline Cellulose Surfaces: Synthesis, Characterization and Surface Properties,” Canadian Journal of Chemistry, 2013, 91, 974-981.
  • Sunasee, R.; Narain, R. “Glycopolymers and Glyconanoparticles in Biomolecular Recognition Processes and Vaccines Development”, Macromol. Biosci.2013, 13, 9-27. (Invited review)
  • Sunasee, R.; Wattanaarsakit, P.; Ahmed, M.; Lollmahomed, F.; Narain, R. “Biodegradable and non-toxic cationic nanogels as non-viral gene delivery systems”, Bioconjugate Chemistry,2012, 23, 1925-1933. (Postdoctoral work, selected by the editors as “hot article”)
  • Bhuchar, N.; Sunasee, R.; Ishihara, K.; Thundat, T.; Narain, R. “Degradable thermo- responsive nanogels for proteins encapsulation and controlled release” Bioconjugate Chemistry,2012, 23, 75-83.
  • Sunasee, R.; Clive, D. L. J. “A new method for desymmetrization of 1,4-cyclohexadienones by radical cyclization: Synthesis of optically pure δ-lactones” Chemical Communication 2010, 46, 701-703
  • Sunasee, R.; Clive, D. L. J. "A route to 1,4-disubstituted aromatics and its application to the synthesis of the antibiotic, culpin" J. Org. Chem.2008, 73, 8016-8020.
  • Clive, D. L. J.; Sunasee, R.; Chen, Z. "Formal radical closure onto aromatic rings–a general route to carbocycles" Org. Biomol. Chem. 2008, 6, 2434-2441.
  • Clive, D.L.J.; Sunasee, R. "Formation of benzo-fused carbocycles by formal radical cyclization onto an aromatic ring" Organic Letters 2007, 9, 2677-2680.
  • Laulloo, S. J.; Khodabocus, A.; Hemraz, U. D.; Sunasee, R. "Use of di-tert-butyl-dicarbonate both as a protecting and activating group in the synthesis of dipeptides" Synthetic Communication 2007, 37, 4191-4197.

Book Chapters:

  • Sunasee, R.; Narain, R. Carbohydrate nanotechnology applied to vaccine development: In Carbohydrate Nanotechnology, Stine, K. J. (Ed.), Chapter 14, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2015, 369-385. ISBN: 978-1-118-86053-3
  • Sunasee, R.; Narain, R. Glycopolymer Syntheses: In Update of Glycopolymers: From Synthesis to Applications, Narain, R (Ed.), Chapter 1, Smithers Rapra, U. K. 2014, 1-44.
  • Sunasee, R.; Narain, R. Covalent and Non-covalent Bioconjugation Strategies; In Chemistry of Bioconjugates: Synthesis, Characterization and Biomedical Applications: Narain, R (Ed.), Chapter 1, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA, 2014, p 1-75.
  • Hemraz, U.D.; Sunasee, R. Functionalization of Nanocrystalline Cellulose Surfaces: In Dekker Encyclopedia of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Lyshevski (Ed.), Third Edition, CRC Press, 2014, Vol. II.

Selected Invited Lectures/Conference Presentations

  • Sunasee, R. The rise of nanotechnology research and education ”, March, 2017. Peru Central School District, Peru, NY. (Guest Speaker).
  • Sunasee, R. An Experimental and Computational study of Bismuth trichloride mediated cleavage of phenolic methoxymethyl ethers”, January 2017, University of Mauritius, Mauritius.
  • Sunasee, R*. "Design of cationic cellulose nanocrystals for potential biomedical applications", 2016 TechConnect World Innovation, National Innovation Summit and National SBIR/STTR Conference, May 23-25, 2016, Maryland, USA.
  • Sunasee, R. Surface modification of cellulose nanocrystals for biomedical applications”, December 2014, University of Mauritius, Mauritius.
  • Sunasee, R. “Nanocrystalline cellulose: A small material with a big future”, Cape Breton University Research Week, 2013, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  • Sunasee, R. “Engineered Nanoparticles for protein, drug and gene delivery”, Brandon University Science Seminar Series 2012, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
  • Sunasee, R. “Careers in Chemistry: Academia and Industry”, Careers in Chemistry Night, Brandon University, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada (Undergraduate Invited Lecture, 2012)
  • Sunasee, R.“Drugs: From Organic Synthesis to targeted delivery”, 2012, Rowan University, New Jersey, USA.
  • Sunasee, R.Synthesis of carbocycles, substituted aromatic compounds, chiral lactones and library of steroids”, 2010, University of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.
  • Sunasee, R.Formation of carbocycles, synthesis of benzene derivatives and synthetic studies towards Sorbicillactone A”, 2009, Gilead Sciences, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Current Internal/External Research Collaborators:

  • Dr. Karina Ckless, Department of Chemistry, State University of New York College at Plattsburgh, N.Y., USA
  • Dr. Yaman Boluk, Nanofibre Chair in Forest Products, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering & National Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • Dr. Usha D. Hemraz, National Research Council of Canada, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Prof. Ponnadurai Ramasami, University of Mauritius, Mauritius.

Professional Affiliations:

  • American Chemical Society (ACS), USA
  • Alternate Councilor of the Northern New York Local ACS Section (2015-2018)
  • Sigma Xi Local Section, Plattsburgh

Faculty Website

Group portrait of Rajesh Sunasee and SUNY Plattsburgh students in the chemistry lab

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