The Mark Gelfand Service Award for Educational Outreach
2017 Gelfand Award Recipient
Professor, Department of Chemistry
Catalina Achim is a professor in the Department of Chemistry. She grew up in Macin, Romania, a city of 10,000 people situated on the border of the Danube River, about 200 miles away from the Black Sea. Her parents, both middle school teachers, passed onto her their love of teaching. They both reluctantly and happily helped her follow her interest in chemistry wherever it led. She holds a B.S./M.S. from the Polytechnical Institute of Bucharest, Romania, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University, both in chemistry. In 2001, she joined CMU as a professor in the Department of Chemistry.
Achim’s research interests lie in the way in which metal ions can change the course of nucleic acid nanotechnology for the better when used discerningly and rationally. In particular, students in her lab focus on the discovery of ways in which transition metal ions can be placed in tens-of- nanometer structures based on nucleic acids to confer special electronic and magnetic properties to these structures.
In 2007, Achim founded DNAZone, the STEM outreach program of the Center of Nucleic Acids Science and Technology (CNAST). DNAZone enables the educational outreach work of the center’s faculty and students, who create experiments, demonstrations and teaching materials based on science concepts covered in the K-12 curriculum. The generosity and the passion for education outreach of CNAST’s members; the interest and excitement for science triggered by hands-on experiments in the K-12 students; and the dedication of science teachers and education administrators in schools in Allegheny County and at CMU; have made the work in DNAZone easy and rewarding. To paraphrase Andrew Carnegie’s core statement “My heart is in the work,” DNAZone’s work is at its heart.