2020 Young Chemist Award Winners

Congratulations to our $10,000 winner: Dr. Pawan Jolly, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

Advisor: Donald E. Ingber, MD, PhD, Director Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

Title: An Antifouling Coating That Enables Affinity-Based Electrochemical Biosensing in Complex Biological Fluids

Research Summary:

Pawan’s research focuses on developing an anti-fouling sensor coating to be used in low cost diagnostic tools. The ‘eRapid’ nanocomposite material coating for electronic sensors prevents biofouling, thereby ensuring signal sensitivity. This coating enables rapid detection of virtually any analyte within minutes from a drop of blood without requiring sample preparation. The eRapid platform is highly scalable and has the potential to disrupt medical diagnostics, as well as industrial, environmental, and food sensing applications.


Affinity-based electrochemical detection in complex biological fluids could enable multiplexed point-of-care diagnostics for home healthcare; however, the commercialization of point-of-care devices has been limited by the rapid loss of sensitivity caused by electrode surface inactivation and biofouling.

Goal: We have developed a simple and robust anti-fouling coating for metal electrodes consisting of a three-dimensional porous matrix of cross-linked bovine serum albumin supported by a network of conductive nanomaterials. These nanocomposites prevent non-specific interactions while enhancing electron transfer to the electrode surface, preserving 88% of the original signal after 1 month of exposure to unprocessed human plasma.

Experimental Design: We used a traditional 3-electrode configuration for our sensors and performed electrochemical characterization to monitor non-specific binding as a measure of current, impedance and cyclic voltammetry to understand diffusion-limited and redox processes.

Method: We used a potentiostat with a multiplexer to measure four independent electrodes on the same chip. We utilized typical electrochemistry methods like CV and EIS to optimize and fabricate the biosensors. The data collected was then transferred to prism software to generate high quality graphs.

Runner-Up: Dr. Fay Nicolson | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Advisor: Moritz Kircher, MD, PhD

Title: In Vivo Imaging of Cancer Using Surface-Enhanced Spatially Offset Resonance Raman Spectroscopy


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common type of brain tumor in adults and is unfortunately associated with low average survival times of approximately 15 months. Surface-enhanced resonance Raman spectroscopy (SERRS) nanoparticles (NPs) can be used to specifically target cancerous cells, and their location can be precisely tracked outside of the body using spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS). In a combined process known as surface enhanced spatially offset resonance Raman spectroscopy (SESORRS), SORS imaging can detect SERRS NPs which have accumulated in tumors through several depths of tissue. However, unlike traditional imaging modalities such as PET, SORS imaging does not use harmful ionizing radiation. We demonstrated the very first use of SESORRS for the imaging of any disease, specifically GBM, in a living system. This technology has the potential to be a fundamental tool in cancer research and serve as a foundation for early monitoring of therapeutic efficacy in patients.

Runner-Up: Sabrina Younan | San Diego State University

Advisor: Dr. Jing Gu

Title: Stabilizing Silicon Nanowires With a Zinc-Doping for Photoelectrochemical H2 Generation


Commercialization of photoelectrochemical (PEC) devices that harness sunlight to convert water into hydrogen (H2) is limited by reflective silicon surfaces, the use of expensive Pt nanoparticles to facilitate H2 evolution reactions (HER), and limited operation lifetimes. Here, we investigated how drop-casting zinc doped metallic molybdenum disulfide onto silicon nanowires (Zn@1T-MoS2/SiNWs) impacts PEC H2 generation and long-term device operation. Modifying silicon into nanowires increases the surface area available to absorb sunlight without increasing its dimensions. Doping zinc into 1T-MoS2 reduces the stacking of MoS2 layers and allows a greater density of HER sites to be exposed. Due to its layered nature, Zn@1T-MoS2 wraps the nanowires, protecting them from surface oxidation. Compared to Pt nanoparticles on silicon nanowires, Zn@1T-MoS2/SiNWs retain ~19% more of their initial photocurrent. By replacing expensive metals with equally efficient low-cost materials, this research provides an opportunity to generate clean energy from natural resources that are abundant and decentralized.