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Machine Guided Discovery of Nanomaterial-based Molecular Recognition for the Sensing of Adulterants in Food and Water




10: Chemical Engineering

Faculty Supervisor:

Michael Strano

Faculty email:


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Please email to setup a time to meet. Thanks! Xun Gong, MD, PhD, xungong@mit.edu

Project Description

One area of Prof. Strano’s laboratory focuses on the engineering of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) as specific sensors for an assortment of analytes, including: reactive species, small molecules, carbohydrates and proteins. We have discovered a system coined corona phase molecular recognition (CoPhMoRe) where analytes can be specifically identified using its interactions with the external surface of a nanomaterial resulting in a change in optical signal. However, traditionally, these molecular recognition elements are discovered through systematic chemical screening for optical responses. This project involves the utilization of a machine guided approach to more efficiently search the sensor design space. The target sensors for this effort are elements that can detect heavy metal and small molecule antibiotic contaminations in food and water. As a student on this project, you will be helping to iteratively generate data that will be used to perform statistical analysis for the generation of sensor design parameters. You will be exposed to a very diverse and interdisciplinary research project and lab. You will have the opportunity to learn many different areas of research ranging from synthesis and characterization of our nanosensors, study of nanomaterial activity and structure, testing of sensitivity and specificity of the SWCNTs, and sensor data analysis. Students will also have the opportunity to learn characterization techniques such as fluorescence spectroscopy, absorption spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, circular dichroism and isothermal calorimetry.


Previous basic chemistry laboratory experience including pipetting and dilutions is required. Preference will go to students with plan for year-long or longer research commitment with interest in biology, chemistry, bioengineering, or nanomaterials.