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


“Photoluminescence Response in Carbon Nanomaterials to Enzymatic Degradation,” X. He, D. L. White, A. A. Kapralov, V. E. Kagan, A. Star*  Anal. Chem. 2020, 92 19, 12880-12890
“Synthesis of Holey Graphene Nanoparticle Compounds,” . D. L. White, L. Lystrom, X. He, S. C. Burkert, D. S. Kilin, S. Kilina, A. Star*  ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2020, 12 32, 36513-36522
“Picking Flowers with Carbon Nanotube Sensors,” S. I. Hwang, A. Star*  ACS Cent. Sci. 2020, 6 4, 461-463
“Enhanced morphological transformation of human lung epithelial cells by continuous exposure to cellulose nanocrystals,” E. R. Kisina, N. Yanamala, D. Rodin, A. Menas, M. Farcas, M. Russo, S. Guppi, T. O. Khaliullin, I. Iavicoli, M. Harper, A. Star, V. E. Kagan, A. A. Shvedova*  Chemosphere 2020, 250, 126170
“Luminescence “Turn-On” Detection of Gossypol using Ln3+- Based Metal-Organic Frameworks and Ln Salts,” T.-Y. Luo, P. Das, D. L. White, C. Liu, A. Star, N. L. Rosi*  J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, 142 6, 2897-2904
“Modification of Carbon Nitride/Reduced Graphene Oxide van der Waals Heterostructure with Copper Nanoparticles to Improve CO2 Sensitivity,” J. E. Ellis, D. C. Sorescu, S. Hwang, S. C. Burkert, D. L. White, H. Kim, A. Star*  ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2019, 11 44, 41588-41594
“Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Detection using Semiconductor-enriched Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Chemiresistors,” S. I. Hwang, N. G. Franconi, M. A. Rothfuss, K. Bocan, L. Bian, D. L. White, S. C. Burkert, R. W. Euler, B. J. Sopher, M. L. Vinay, E. Sejdic, A. Star*  ACS Sens. 2019, 4 8, 2084-2093
“Probing Ca2+-induced conformational change of Calmodulin with gold nanoparticle-decorated single-walled carbon nanotube field-effect transistors,” W. Shao, S. C. Burkert, D. L. White, V. L. Scott, J. Ding, Z. Li, J. Ouyang, F. Lapointe, P. R. L. Malenfant, K. Islam, A. Star*  Nanoscale 2019, 11 28, 13397-13406
“Characterizing the Cellular Response to Nitrogen-doped Carbon Nanocups,” A. S. Griffith, T. D. Zhang, S. C. Burkert, Z. Adiguzel, C. Acilan, A. Star, W. S. Saunders*  Nanomaterials 2019, 9 6, 887
“Holey Graphene Metal Nanoparticle Composites via Crystalline Polymer Templated Etching,” D. L. White, S. C. Burkert, S. I. Hwang, A. Star*  Nano Lett. 2019, 19 5, 2824-2831
“Machine Learning Identification of the Sensing Descriptors Relevant in Molecular Interactions with Metal Nanoparticle-Decorated Nanotube Field-Effect Transistors,” . L. Bian, D. C. Sorescu, L. Chen, D. L. White, S. C. Burkert, Y. Khalifa, Z. Zhang, E. Sejdić, A. Star*  ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2019, 11 1, 1219-1227
“Growth of ZIF-8 on molecularly ordered 2-methylimidazole/single-walled carbon nanotubes to form highly porous, electrically conductive composites,” . J. E. Ellis, Z. Zeng, S. I. Hwang, S. Li, T.-Y. Luo, S. C. Burkert, D. L. White, N. L. Rosi, J. J. Gassensmith, A. Star* Chem. Sci. 2019, 10 3, 737-742
“Targeting myeloid regulators by paclitaxel-loaded enzymatically degradable nanocups,” S. C. Burkert, G. V. Shurin, D. L. White, X. He, A. A. Kapralov, V. E. Kagan, M. R. Shurin, A. Star*  Nanoscale 2018, 10 37, 17990-18000
“Oligomer Hydrate Crystallization Improves Carbon Nanotube Memory,” M. T. Chido, P. Koronaios, K. Saravanan, A. P. Adams, S. J. Geib, Q. Zhu, H. B. Sunkara, S. S. Velankar, R. M. Enick, J. A. Keith, A. Star*  Chem. Mater. 2018, 30 11, 3813-3818
“Synthesis of TiO2 Nanospindles Supported Pt Nanodots for Oxygen Reduction Reaction,” G. Peng,* S. Wu, Q. Peng, S. C. Burkert, R. Du, C. Yu, A. Star*  Advances in New and Renewable Energy 2018, 6, 163-168
“Free-Standing Nitrogen-Doped Cup-Stacked Carbon Nanotube Mats for Potassium-Ion Battery Anodes,” X. Zhao, Y. Tang, C. Ni, J. Wang,* A. Star*, Y. Xu*  ACS Appl. Energy Mater. 2018, 1 4, 1703-1707
“Automatic Early-Onset Free Flap Failure Detection for Implantable Biomedical Devices,” M. A. Rothfuss, N. G. Franconi, A. Star, M. Akcakaya, M. L. Gimbel, E. Sejdić*  IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng. 2018, 65 10, 2290-2297
“Graphene oxide is degraded by neutrophils and the degradation products are non-genotoxic,” . S. P. Mukherjee, A. R. Gliga, B. Lazzaretto, B. Brandner, M. Fielden, C. Vogt, L. Newman, A. F. Rodrigues, W. Shao, P. M. Fournier, M. S. Toprak, A. Star, K. Kostarelos, K. Bhattacharya, B. Fadeel* Nanoscale 2018, 10 3, 1180-1188
“Probing Biomolecular Interactions with Gold Nanoparticle-Decorated Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes,” Z. P. Michael, W. Shao, D. C. Sorescu, R. Euler, S. C. Burkert, A. Star*  J. Phys. Chem. C 2017, 121 38, 20813-20820
“Nanoelectronic Discrimination of Nonmalignant and Malignant Cells using Nanotube Field-Effect Transistors,” G. O. Silva, Z. P. Michael, L. Bian, G. V. Shurin, M. Mulato, M. R. Shurin, A. Star* ACS Sens. 2017, 2 8, 1128-1132
“Uncondensed Graphitic Carbon Nitride on Reduced Graphene Oxide for Oxygen Sensing via a Photoredox Mechanism,” J. E. Ellis, D. C. Sorescu, S. C. Burkert, D. L. White, A. Star*  ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 9 32, 27142-27151
“Synthesis of one-dimensional SiC nanostructures from a glassy buckypaper,” Ding M, Star A ACS Appl. Mater. Inter. 2013, 5 6, 1928-1936
“Rigid versus flexible ligands on carbon nanotubes for the enhanced sensitivity of cobalt ions,” Gou P, Kraut ND, Feigel IM, Star A Macromolecules 2013, 46, 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 2013, 9
“Understanding interfaces in metal-graphitic hybrid nanostructures,” Ding M, Tang Y, Star A J.Phys.Chem.Lett. 2013, 4, 147-160
“Effect of antioxidants on enzyme-catalysed biodegradation of carbon nanotubes,” Kotchey GP, Gaugler JA, Kapralov AA, Kagan VE, Star A J.Mater.Chem. B 2013, 1, 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, 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, DOI: 10.1002/smll.201201546
“Corking carbon nanotube cups with gold nanoparticles,” Zhao Y, Tang Y, Chen Y, Star A ACS Nano 2012, 6, 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. 2012, 45, 1770-1781
“Selecting fruits with carbon nanotube sensors,” Ding M, Star A Angew.Chem.Int.Ed. 2012, 51, 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 2012, 6, 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 2012, 7, e30923
“Welding of gold nanoparticles on graphitic templates for chemical sensing,” Ding M, Sorescu DC, Kotchey GP, Star A J.Am.Chem.Soc. 2012, 134, 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 2012, 6, 760-770
“Enzymatic Degradation of Multiwalled Carbon Nanotubes,” Zhao, Y., Allen, B.L., and Star, A. J. OF PHY. CHEM. A 2011, 115, 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 2011, 5, 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 2011, 519, 5371-5375
“Chemical Sensitivity of Graphene Edges Decorated with Metal Nanoparticles,” Vedala H, Sorescu DC, Kotchey GP, and Star A Nano Lett. 2011, 11, 2342-2347
“Electrochemical Detection with Platinum Decorated Carbon Nanomaterials,” Tang YF, Kotchey GP, Vedala H, and Star, A ELECTROANALYSIS 2011, 23, 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 2011, 5, 2098-2108
“Chemical Sensing with Polyaniline Coated Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes,” Ding MN, Tang YF, Gou PP, Reber MJ, and Star, A Advanced Materials 2011, 23, 536-540
“Biosensors based on one-dimensional nanostructures,” Feigel IM, Vedala H, and Star A J. Mater. Chem. 2011, 21, 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. 2011, 11, 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 2010, 4, 6854-6862