Marya Lieberman

Marya Lieberman

Analytical Chemistry in Low Resource Settings


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

J. Calvin Giddings Award for Excellence in Education
James A. Burns, C.S.C., Award
Reinhold Niebuhr Award
Eminent Scientist Lecturer, American Chemical Society
Partners for Progress Prosperity (P3) Award, ACS Joint Great Lakes/Central Region
Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
Kaneb Faculty Fellow
Reilly Fellow
NSF Career Award
NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship

Research Interests

Paper Analytical Devices

In the early 2000's, researchers discovered that nearly half of the antimalarial medications in some developing countries were fake. These products caused over 120,000 deaths per year. IR, NMR, and HPLC can easily measure the quality of essential medicines, so why are bad quality products killing people in the developing world? The problem is that these technologies are designed for countries with abundant resources. But expensive instruments, trained operators, and high purity supplies are just unavailable in many places in the world. The development of new technologies that are scalable and implementable in low resource settings is a compelling research problem that can impact people's lives all over the world.

My lab is designing paper analytical devices (PADs) to solve a host of analytical problems in low resource settings. Paper is printed with hydrophobic ink to create millifluidic structures such as solution channels, reagent storage areas, and mixing zones. This enables us to automate operations that would normally be carried out with glassware in a lab setting. Many reactions and assay methods used before the age of spectroscopy can be adapted to the paper platform and done in a field setting rather than a laboratory. Current work focuses on synthetic biology for creating biosensors to embed in the paper and on techniques for trace (ppm, ppb) analysis in paper-based systems.

Paper test cards made in our group have been trialed in Britain, the US, Israel, Tanzania, the Philippines, India, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Liberia, and Ghana, and by non-governmental organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, SIDAI, and MITI Health. Design and prototyping is an integral part of the projects, and researchers in my group travel for field tests in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, or Nepal.

Recent Publications

  • Whitehead, H. D. and Lieberman, M. "Rapid, Instrument-Free Colorimetric Quantification of DNA using Nile Blue" 2022 Analytical Methods, 14 (5), pp.574-580. DOI: 10.1039/d1ay01598b.
  • Tighe, M.; Jin, Y. K.; Whitehead, H. D.; Hayes, K.; Lieberman, M.; Pannu, M.; Plumlee, M. H. and Peaslee, G. F. "Screening for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Water with Particle Induced Gamma-Ray Emission Spectroscopy" 2021 ACS ES&T Water, 1 (12), pp.2477-2484. DOI: 10.1021/acsestwater.1c00215.
  • Roller, R. M.; Sumantakul, S.; Tran, M.; Van Wyk, A.; Zinna, J.; Donelson, D. A.; Finnegan, S. G.; Foley, G.; Frechette, O. R.; Gaetgens, J.; Jiang, J. N.; Rinaolo, K. C.; Cole, R. S.; Lieberman, M.; Remcho, V. T. and Frederick, K. A. "Inquiry-Based Laboratories using Paper Microfluidic Devices" 2021 Journal of Chemical Education, 98 (6), pp.1946-1953. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.1c00214.
  • Lockwood, T.; Huynh, P.; Richard, A.; Sightes, E.; Bailey, K.; Ray, B. and Lieberman, M. "Community Overdose Surveillance: Comparing Substances Collected from the Death Scene Investigation to Toxicology Results" 2021 Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 224, 108722. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108722.
  • Lockwood, T.; Vervoordt, A. and Lieberman, M. "High Concentrations of Illicit Stimulants and Cutting Agents Cause False Positives on Fentanyl Test Strips" 2021 Harm Reduction Journal, 18 (1), 30. DOI: 10.1186/s12954-021-00478-4.
  • Bliese, S. L.; Berta, M. and Lieberman, M. "Involving Students in the Distributed Pharmaceutical Analysis Laboratory: A Citizen-Science Project to Evaluate Global Medicine Quality" 2020 Journal of Chemical Education, 97 (11), pp.3976-3983. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c00904.

Contact Information

Primary Research Areas

Research Specialties