Marya Lieberman

Marya Lieberman

Surface Chemistry


Professor, University of Notre Dame
Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame
Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame
Postdoctoral Fellow, California Institute of Technology
Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of Washington
B.S. in Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Selected Awards

Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
Kaneb Faculty Fellow
Reilly Fellow
NSF Career Award
NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship

Research Interests

My research focuses on two very different topics. I've long been interested in surface chemistry, self-assembly of two- and three-dimensional structures, and molecular electronics, and in this area we are currently studying nanostructures made from DNA as self-assembling "circuit boards" for nanoelectronic and nanomagnetic devices. A lot of this work requires CMOS processing steps in a clean room environment. We use surface analysis tools like AFM to image the DNA nanostructures, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to learn about the surface chemistry of the substrates, so this project is a good fit for students with a physical/analytical turn of mind and an interest in building things on the nanoscale.

DNA nanotechnology

DNA origami are amazing structures that self assemble from a long template strand of DNA (usually a viral genome or plasmid) and hundreds of short synthetic oligonucleotides.  You can watch an animation we made showing how DNA origami are assembled here

We are studying fundamental materials issues for the integration of self-assembling DNA nanostructures (DNA lattices, tiles, or origami) with top-down CMOS fabrication methods. DNA-templated assembly of electronic components offers several possible wins as a patterning technology for nanoelectronics. Self-assembly of DNA can create objects on the scale of 10-100 nm as well as repeating grids or meshes that cover several square microns. Design principles are sufficiently understood such that DNA nanostructures with novel, arbitrary shapes can move from concept to reality in about 2 weeks. Students with an interest in synthetic chemistry can tackle the integration of non-DNA components with DNA nanostructures, while students with more of a physical or analytical focus can address fundamental questions about the yields, error types, and ultimate utility of self-assembly.

Guided assembly of biomolecules and nanoparticles

Electron-beam lithography is used in very high resolution CMOS fabrication processes. We are developing methodology to use the electron beam to chemically pattern a surface, and then to deposit biomolecules upon the very tiny chemical patterns. Biomolecules of interest include proteins, virus particles, and DNA.

Technology for the developing world

About four years ago, I became interested in the problem of low quality medicine in the developing world.  There are two features of this problem that I find compelling:  a technical challenge, and a moral imperative.  The technical challenge is to devise analytical tools and methods that can function in settings where there are few lab instruments, supplies, or trained workers, and where the basic infrastructure for pure water, electricity, and transportation is unreliable. To answer this challenge, we are developing a "Lab on paper" as a platform technology for qualitative and quantitative chemical analysis.  This project answers the moral imperative to use our skills to benefit others. Our goal is not only to develop the analytical tools, but to get them out of the lab and into the world. Students with a solid background in classical analytical methods, a talent for tinkering or "Edisoning around," and an interest in global health or business may enjoy working on this project.  

We are developing analytical devices to detect fake pharmaceuticals and perform other analytical tasks.  Several different tests are run simultaneously on a single sample.  The devices are paper based, contain all necessary reagents, do not need electricity, and can be read by taking a picture with a cell phone and sending it to a web site.  The overall goal of this project is to "crowdsource" chemical analysis, revealing spatial and temporal information that will be useful for  public health, forensic, and environmental applications. You can learn more about the project at the website.

Recent Papers

  • Pillers, M.A.; Lieberman, M. "Thermal stability of DNA origami on mica." J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B 2014, 32 (4), 040602. 
  • Pillers, M.A.; Goss, V.; Lieberman, M. "Electron-Beam Lithography and Molecular Liftoff for Directed Attachment of DNA Nanostructures on Silicon: Top-down Meets Bottom-up." Accounts Chem. Res. 2014, 47 (6), 1759-1767.
  • Weaver, A.A.; Reiser, H.; Barstis, T.; Benvenuti, M.; Ghosh, D.; Hunckler, M.; Joy, B.; Koenig, L. ; Raddell, K.; Lieberman, M. "Paper Analytical Devices for Fast Field Screening of Beta Lactam Antibiotics and Antituberculosis Pharmaceuticals." Anal. Chem. 2013, 85 (13), 6453-6460.
  • Arisio, C.; Cassou, C.A.; Lieberman, M. "Loss of Siloxane Monolayers from GaN Surfaces in Water." Langmuir 2013, 29 (17), 5145-5149. 
  • Bajema, E.; Barstis, T.; Lieberman, M. "Catching the counterfeits." Chem. Ind.-London 2013, 77 (1), 28-30.
  • Yun, J.M.; Kim, K.N.; Kim, J.Y.; Shin, D.O.; Lee, W.J.; Lee, S.H.; Lieberman, M.; Kim, S.O. "DNA Origami Nanopatterning on Chemicallly Modified Graphene." Angew. Chem. Int. Edit. 2012, 51 (4), 912-915.




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