Department of Chemistry



Alexander Star




112 Eberly Hall, 200 University Drive

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

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Research Overview

Nanomaterials, Biosensors, Drug Delivery

Our research is focused on the emerging fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Employing techniques from physical organic, analytical, and physical chemistry, our group develops novel nanomaterials, which are further studied to ascertain a fundamental understanding of the system as well as to determine potential beneficial applications. 

Synthesis and Exploration of Novel Carbon-based Nanomaterials

Employing the bottom-up approach of controlled chemical vapor deposition (CVD), we fabricate single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and other novel carbon-based nanomaterials. These materials are further modified to impart new properties. Methods of functionalization include: oxidation through enzymatic biodegradation, labeling via covalent linking, decorating with nanoparticles, and the non-covalent attachment of synthetic or natural ligands/polymers. Moreover, the products of both the synthesis and functionalization stages of our research undergo rigorous characterization by a variety of microscopy and spectroscopy techniques as well as electrochemistry and solid-state electrical transport measurements. The results of our research have led to positive steps in the development of novel applications, which include the production of chemical and biological sensors, energy conversion devices (fuel cells), and drug delivery. 

Research topics in our group:

  • Carbon nanotube-based chemical and biological sensing
  • Metal nanoparticle-decorated carbon nanotubes for catalysis
  • Synthesis and exploration of carbon nanocups
  • Bio recognition and biodegradation of carbon nanomaterials

For detailed description of the projects please visit our group website.


  • University of Pittsburgh Innovator Award, 2012
  • Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award, 2011
  • NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) Award, 2011
  • NSF Career Award, 2010
  • University of Pittsburgh Innovator Award, 2008
  • Thieme Chemistry Journals Award, 2006
  • Intel Award, 1998
  • Buchmann Doctoral Fellowship, 1996-1999
  • Schwarz Memorial Graduate Scholarship, 1997


“Synthesis of one-dimensional SiC nanostructures from a glassy buckypaper,” Ding M, Star A, ACS Appl. Mater. Inter., 2013,
“Rigid versus flexible ligands on carbon nanotubes for the enhanced sensitivity of cobalt ions,” Gou P, Kraut ND, Feigel IM, Star A, Macromolecules, Vol. 46, 2013, Pages 1376-1383
“Biodegradation of single-walled carbon nanotubes by eosinophil peroxidase,” Andon FT, Kapralov AA, Yanamala N, Feng W, Baygan A, Chambers BJ, Hultenby K, Ye F, Toprak MS, Brandner BD, Fornara A, Klein-Seetharaman J, Kotchey GP, Star A, Shvedova AA, Fadeel B, and Kagan VE, Small, Vol. 9, 2013,
“Understanding interfaces in metal-graphitic hybrid nanostructures,” Ding M, Tang Y, Star A, J.Phys.Chem.Lett., Vol. 4, 2013, Pages 147-160
“Sweet carbon nanostructures: Carbohydrate conjugates with carbon nanotubes and graphene and their applications,” Chen Y, Star A, Vidal S., Chem.Soc.Rev., 2013, Pages DOI:10.1039/c2cs35396b
“Synthesis of graphitic nanocups and their functionalization with gold nanoparticles as stoppers,” Zhao Y, Tang Y, Star A, J.Vis.Exp., 2013,
“Effect of antioxidants on enzyme-catalysed biodegradation of carbon nanotubes,” Kotchey GP, Gaugler JA, Kapralov AA, Kagan VE, Star A, J.Mater.Chem. B, Vol. 1, 2013, Pages 302-309
“Carbon nanotubes enhance metastatic growth of lung carcinoma via up-regulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells,” Shvedova AA, Tkach AV, Kisin ER, Khaliullin T, Stanley S, Gutkin DW, Star A, Chen Y, Shurin GV, Kagan VE, Shurin MR, Small, 2012, Pages DOI:10.1002/smll.201201470
“Graphene oxide, but not fullerenes, targets immunoproteasomes and suppresses antigen presentation by dendritic cells,” Tkach AV, Yanamala N, Stanley S, Shurin MR, Shurin GV, Kisin ER, Murray AR, Pareso S, Khaliullin T, Kotchey GP, Castranova V, Mathur S, Fadeel B, Star A, Kagan VE, Shvedova AA, Small, 2012, Pages DOI: 10.1002/smll.201201546
“Corking carbon nanotube cups with gold nanoparticles,” Zhao Y, Tang Y, Chen Y, Star A, ACS Nano, Vol. 6, 2012, Pages 6912-6921
“A natural vanishing act: The enzyme-catalyzed degradation of carbon nanomaterials,” Kotchey GP, Hasan SA, Kapralov AA, Ha SH, Kim K, Shvedova AA, Kagan VE, Star A, Acc.Chem.Res., Vol. 45, 2012, Pages 1770-1781
“Selecting fruits with carbon nanotube sensors,” Ding M, Star A, Angew.Chem.Int.Ed., Vol. 51, 2012, Pages 7637-7638
“Selective adsorption of surfactant lipids by single-walled carbon nanotubes in mouse lung upon pharyngeal aspiration: Role in uptake by macrophages,” Kapralov AA, Feng WH, Amoscato AA, Yanamala N, Balasubramanian K, Winnica DE, Kisin ER, Kotchey GP, Gou P. Sparvero LJ, Ray P, Mallampalli RK, Klien-Seetharaman J, Fadeel B, Star A, Shvedova AA, Kagan VE, ACS Nano, Vol. 6, 2012, Pages 4147-4156
“Impaired clearance and enhanced pulmonary inflammatory/fibrotic response to carbon nanotubes in myeloperoxidase-deficient mice,” Shvedova AA, Kapralov AA, Feng WH, Kisin ER, Murray AR, Mercer RR, St. Croix CM, Lang MA, Watkins SC, Konduru NV, Allen BL, Conroy J, Kotchey GP, Mohamed BM, Meade AD, Volkov Y, Star A, Fadeel B, Kagan VE, PLoS ONE, Vol. 7, 2012, Pages e30923
“Welding of gold nanoparticles on graphitic templates for chemical sensing,” Ding M, Sorescu DC, Kotchey GP, Star A, J.Am.Chem.Soc., Vol. 134, 2012, Pages 3472-3479
“Electronic detection of lectins using carbohydrate funcionalized nanostructures: Graphen versus carbon nanotubes,” Chen Y, Vedala H, Kotchey GP, Audfray A, Cecioni S, Imberty A, Vidal S, Star A, ACS Nano, Vol. 6, 2012, Pages 760-770
“Enzymatic Degradation of Multiwalled Carbon Nanotubes,” Zhao, Y., Allen, B.L., and Star, A., J. OF PHY. CHEM. A, Vol. 115, 2011, Pages 9536-9544
“Direct Effects of Carbon Nanotubes on Dendritic Cells Induce Immune Suppression Upon Pulmonary Exposure,” Tkach AV, Shurin GV, Shurin MR, Kisin ER, Murray AR, Young SH, Star A, Fadeel B, Kagan VE, and Shvedova AA, ACS NANO, Vol. 5, 2011, Pages 5755-5762
“The effect of temperature on the growth of carbon nanotubes on copper foil using a nickel thin film as catalyst,” Atthipallia, G., Epura, R., Kumtaa, P.N., Allend, B.L., Tangd, Y., Star, A., and Graya, J.L., THIN SOLID FILMS, Vol. 519, 2011, Pages 5371-5375
“Chemical Sensitivity of Graphene Edges Decorated with Metal Nanoparticles,” Vedala H, Sorescu DC, Kotchey GP, and Star A, Nano Lett., Vol. 11, 2011, Pages 2342-2347
“Electrochemical Detection with Platinum Decorated Carbon Nanomaterials,” Tang YF, Kotchey GP, Vedala H, and Star, A, ELECTROANALYSIS, Vol. 23, 2011, Pages 870-877
“The Enzymatic Oxidation of Graphene Oxide,” Kotchey GP, Allen BL, Vedala H, Yanamala N, Kapralov AA, Tyurina YY, Klein-Seetharaman J, Kagan VE, and Star A, ACS Nano, Vol. 5, 2011, Pages 2098-2108
“Chemical Sensing with Polyaniline Coated Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes,” Ding MN, Tang YF, Gou PP, Reber MJ, and Star, A, Advanced Materials, Vol. 23, 2011, Pages 536-540
“Biosensors based on one-dimensional nanostructures,” Feigel IM, Vedala H, and Star A, J. Mater. Chem., Vol. 21, 2011, Pages 8940-8954
“Nanoelectronic Detection of Lectin-Carbohydrate Interactions Using Carbon Nanotubes,” Vedala H, Chen YA, Cecioni S, Imberty A, Vidal S, and Star A, Nano Lett., Vol. 11, 2011, Pages 170-175
“Exploring the Chemical Sensitivity of a Carbon Nanotube/Green Tea Composite,” Chen Y, Lee, YD, Vedala H, Allen BL, Star A, ACS Nano, Vol. 4, 2010, Pages 6854-6862