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About Rebecca Cademartiri

Projects mainly deal with biological molecules and organism like antibodies, proteins, DNA, or bacteriophages find wide application e.g., in sensing, medicine, and remediation. Recent progress, like drug delivery, tissue engineering, has shown that the interaction between these biological entities and materials represent an opportunity for the development of new technologies at the interface of materials science, biology, and health-care. Various biological e.g. streptavidin/biotin and chemical e.g. NHS/EDC conjugation methods exist for binding of biological molecules to surfaces. Our lab focuses on charge based interactions – a physical method. Compared to chemical and biological interactions, charge-based interactions are fast, cheap (they don’t require expensive molecules like streptavidin), flexible (they don’t require the addition of specific functional groups), and adaptive (their strength can be easily adjusted). We are especially interested in organisms called bacteriophages. Bacteriophages (a.k.a. phages) are viruses that attack and potentially destroy bacteria but that are non-toxic to humans. Phages can be used as an alternative to standard antibiotics in water, food, animals, and humans. Differently from molecules (e.g., antibiotics), phages are organisms that evolve in competition with bacteria: in principle, phages can autonomously develop to destroy every emerging pathogen. While the behavior of phages towards bacteria is quite well studied, there is no detailed understanding of their interaction with the surface of materials. We will systematically study the interaction of phages with materials to generate heuristic rules which govern conjugation. Understanding these underlying rules will help us to quickly adjust our phage-material conjugates to new challenges (e.g., different chemical environments in various applications). Bacteriophages can also be used as model systems for viruses that are pathogenic to humans. Rules for the binding of phages to materials can be used as a starting point to generate antiviral surfaces. These antiviral materials can then be employed in hospitals or production plants to reduce viral contaminations. We are not only interested in the interactions of biological entities with the surface of materials, but also with their release profiles from materials. Formulating rules on how biomolecules release from materials, e.g., depending on the charge and density of the material and the environmental conditions, will allow us to produce slow-release systems, e.g., drug-delivery systems with high adaptability to emerging diseases. For all these projects the group uses both materials science approaches, like the chemical modification of polymeric, ceramic and metallic surfaces and their subsequent analysis with spectroscopic and microscopic techniques; and microbiology approaches, like aseptic techniques and staining and microscopy for analysis.
Selected Publications


Present Adjunct Assistant Professor, Iowa State University Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Present Adjunct Assistant Professor, Iowa State University Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Contact Information

1031 Sweeney
618 Bissell Rd
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-2230
Phone: 515-294-3327
Fax: 55-294-2689


Peer-Reviewed Articles (7)

Technical Reports (1)