University of Pittsburgh
September 17, 2006

Pitt Expands Nanoscience Faculty

Petersen Institute for NanoScience and Engineering now tallies 48 researchers Pitt recently was ranked second in the nation for microscale and nanoscale research by Small Times.

PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh's Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute for NanoScience and Engineering has added 13 affiliated faculty since spring 2005, bringing the total number of researchers to 48.

The institute's NanoScale Fabrication and Characterization Facility, to be located in Benedum Hall, will open Sept. 29. The facility, which includes a 4,000-square-foot cleanroom that will house advanced lithography equipment, will enable vertical integration of structures from the nano to the micro to the macro level in conjunction with other University facilities.

Information on the latest additions to the nanoscience faculty follows.

School of Arts and Sciences

Lillian Chong, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

The central goal of Chong's research is to use theory and simulation to understand how proteins fold, bind their partners, and catalyze reactions, with an emphasis on how malfunctions at the molecular level can be linked to clinical data for various diseases. To achieve this goal, Chong develops accurate approaches for simulation and subsequent analysis of protein structure and function.

David Earl, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Earl specializes in computational and theoretical studies of complex materials. His research interests include design of catalytical materials, protein evolution and implications for drug resistance, immune system dynamics, vaccine design and protocol, computer simulation methodology, and coarse-graining techniques.

Nathaniel Rosi, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Rosi develops strategies for the design and synthesis of new materials having broad potential applications in such areas as catalysis, sensing, and drug delivery. Rosi employs an approach that involves the rational assembly of chemical building blocks, like small molecules, metal clusters, or nanostructures, into well-ordered hierarchical structures.

Alex Star, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Star applies the methods of physical organic chemistry to investigate polyaromatic systems, such as conjugated polymers and single-walled carbon nanotubes, for their applications in nanoelectronic chemical and biological sensing. Star and Minhee Yun (electrical engineering, below) recently were awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to design a lecture and a lab to teach a course in nanodevices.

Michael Trakselis, Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Projects in Trakselis' laboratory center on understanding the molecular mechanisms of DNA replication and exploiting this knowledge for cancer therapeutics, biotechnology, and nanoscale applications. Trakselis uses a model archaeal DNA replication system that shares significant homology to that of higher eukaryotes but is amenable to in vitro biochemistry experiments.

School of Engineering

Daniel Cole, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Cole's research interests are in the measurement and control of nanosystems. His research is centered around two instruments for measuring and manipulating things at the nanoscale: the atomic force microscope (AFM) and the optical trap. Cole also uses the AFM for scanning probe lithography and uses holographic techniques developed for the optical trap for dynamic holographic maskless lithography.

Jennifer Gray, Assistant Professor, Materials Science

Gray's primary focus is on the formation and directed growth of self-assembled nanostructures during SiGe heteroepitaxy. Her research also incorporates various materials and surface analysis techniques, including electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy.

Guangyong Li, Assistant Professor (January 2007), Electrical and Computer Engineering

Li's research involves the development of an atomic force microscopy-based nanorobotic system with an enhanced augmented reality interface to precisely manipulate nanomaterials and the use of this system to study the functionalities of living cell membrane proteins. In these latter studies, Li's research involves the study of locations, structures, and molecular dynamics of cell membrane proteins with respect to their role in drug effectiveness.

Jason Monnell, Research Associate, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Monnell is interested in chemical and physical interactions between heavy metals, tailored molecules, and nanosized particles and their environment. He is using molecular-scale properties of functional materials and molecules to address environmental concerns, including heavy metal sequestration, molecule specific removal, and degradation of biochemical hazards.

Ravi Shankar, Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering

Shankar's primary research interests include synthesis and thermomechanical characterization of nanomaterials designed for structural and biomedical applications. He is exploring methods for the large-scale manufacture of nanomaterials by severe plastic deformation techniques. A second area of focus is in the development of carbon-nanotube reinforced polymer materials, especially for biomedical applications such as dental restorations, to exploit the new system opportunities offered by nanotechnology to achieve unprecedented material property combinations.

Lisa Weiland, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Weiland's nanoscale research is focused primarily on multiscale analysis and design of ionic polymers (IPs), which lately have received widespread attention for their application in fuel cell vehicles. Weiland's group is developing and experimentally validating an IP multiscale modeling method to first predict mechanical properties of known systems, but ultimately for use as a virtual material design tool.

Minhee Yun, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Yun develops nanostructured materials, such as nanowires and nanoparticles, with an emphasis on chemical and biosensor applications. He is investigating the nanoscale low-dimensional materials in the areas of electrical phenomena and biocompatibility.

School of Medicine

Joanne Yeh, Associate Professor, Structural Biology

Yeh uses X-ray diffraction techniques to determine the atomic structures of biological macromolecules and uses these results for medical and computational applications. The projects in Yeh's lab fall broadly under three general categories: crystal structure studies, nanoelectronic detection and signal propagation, and computational and algorithmic development.

Pitt's Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering is an integrated, multidisciplinary organization that brings coherence to the University's research efforts and resources in the fields of nanoscale science and engineering. For more information, visit