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Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, Ph.D.

Department of Biological Engineering Division
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of
Mechanical Engineering and Biological Engineering

Room 56-341c
617-452-2385 (phone)
617-258-0204 (fax)

Research Summary

Bioengineering, manufacturing, manipulation of biological molecules, chemistry, nanotechnology, materials science.

The Hamad-Schifferli group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering is developing techniques for controlling biological molecules using nanometer-scale antennas. In biology there are numerous examples of systems which far exceed any man-made machine in terms of efficiency, precision, and complexity. We would like to be able to take advantage of the engineering that Nature has done for thousands of years and directly manipulate biological molecules. Our goals are to develop antennas to control individual biological molecules externally and to use these antennas to directly manipulate complex biological systems.

Controlling biological machines

It has been demonstrated that metal nanocrystals can be used to control the hybridization state of a DNA oligonucleotide and also the activity of simple enzymes such as Ribonuclease S. Currently we are expanding this means of control to more complicated processes such as translation (protein synthesis from mRNA by a ribosome) and transcription (mRNA synthesis from DNA by a polymerase). Future work includes control of these machines inside bacteria and cells. We will use a variety of physical, chemical, and biological techniques to study these biological systems.

New Materials for antennas

Mechanisms of controlling biology is not limited to induction heating but also includes magnetic hysteresis heating and photochemical induced activity. We are interested in developing new antennas for controlling biological systems of both inorganic materials and chemical moieties.

Understanding localized heating on the nanoscale in biological systems

What is the mechanism of turning off biological activity? We are exploring the effect of localized heating by a variety of experimental and theoretical methods. Probing biological structure during the heating process by spectroscopic methods will help elucidate the effects of localized heating.


  • K. Hamad-Schifferli, in Encyclopedia of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, edited by J. A. Schwarz, C. Contescu and K. Putyera (Marcel Dekker, New York, 2003), in press, invited contribution.
  • K. Hamad-Schifferli, J.J. Schwartz, A.T. Santos, S. Zhang, J.M. Jacobson, "Remote electronic control of DNA hybridization through inductive heating of an attached metal nanocrystal," Nature, 2002, 415, 152-155.
  • K. Hamad-Schifferli, J.J. Schwartz, A.T. Santos, S. Zhang, J.M. Jacobson, "Direct Electronic Control of Biomolecular Systems: Using Nanocrystals as Antennas for Regulation of Biological Activity," Proceedings from the Materials Research Society Symposium, San Francisco, CA, 2001, Y8.43.1-6
  • K. S. Hamad, R. Roth, J. Rockenberger, T. van Buuren, and A. P. Alivisatos, "Structural disorder in colloidal InAs and CdSe nanocrystals observed by XANES," Physical Review Letters, 1999, 83(17), 3474-77.
  • A. A. Guzelian, J. E. B. Katari, A.V. Kadavanich, U. Banin, K. Hamad, E. Juban, A. P. Alivisatos, R. H. Wolters, C. C. Arnold, J.R. Heath, "Synthesis of Size-Selected, Surface Passivated InP Nanocrystals," Journal of Physical Chemistry, 1996, 100, 7212-7219.

Last Updated: April 19, 2010