James W. Schneider-Chemical Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

James W. Schneider

Professor, Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering (courtesy)and Chemistry ( courtesy)

Office: Doherty Hall 3121
Phone: 412-268-4394
Fax: 412-268-7139


Professor James Schneider received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1992 and his Ph.D from the University of Minnesota in 1998. He then spent two years in a postdoc position at the Naval Research Laboratory before joining the Department of Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in 1999. Prof. Schneider holds courtesy appointments in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Chemistry at CMU.


Postdoctoral Fellow 1998-1999, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington DC
Ph.D. 1998, University of Minnesota
B.S. 1992, University of Wisconsin


Professor Schneider's work focuses on the development of novel biomolecular materials for use in rapid, gel-free DNA separations, specific analysis of trace miRNA and other biomarkers, and large-scale purification of DNA for gene delivery.  We are also developing methods to better characterize these biologically inspired materials using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and other aspects of nanotechnology.  The group collaborates extensively with the Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology (CNAST) and the Center for Complex Fluids Engineering (CCFE) at CMU.

Rapid, gel-free DNA electrophoresis  The time required to electrophoretically separate DNA is a bottleneck in several important genetic analysis methods, including forensic identification by STR profiling and DNA sequencing.  We have developed a gel-free method to separate DNA oligomers using end-attached surfactant micelles (Micelle-ELFSE) that can perform these separations 10-100 times faster than in commercial gel electrophoresis instruments.  Current work is focused on applying the method to very long DNA and integrating micelle-ELFSE methods into microfluidic devices.

Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA) amphiphiles for analysis of trace miRNA  MicroRNAs (miRNA) are a class of very short, non-coding RNAs that regulate important functions in mammalian cells.  Several miRNAs have been identified as cancer biomarkers, but their detection is complicated by poor binding to DNA probes and inefficient PCR.  In collaboration with Chemistry faculty Bruce Armitage and Danith Ly, we have designed synthetic DNA analogs that bind miRNA tightly and specifically.  These mini-PEG peptide nucleic acids are further modified with a long-chain alkane so that miRNA targets can be separated from non-targets in capillary electrophoresis.  We are currently working to incorporate highly fluorescent materials and on-chip stacking techniques for the PCR-less detection of miRNA from biological samples.

Novel surfactant materials for charging in nonpolar media  The mechanisms by which particles in aqueous suspension acquire charge and remain dispersed are well understood, but very little is known regarding particles in non-aqueous media.  In collaboration with Dennis Prieve, Paul Sides, we have designed a series of surfactants that bring about a remarkably strong enhancement of conductivity in nonpolar solvents.  We are currently working to understand this effect along with mechanisms by which surfaces acquire charge in nonpolar media as required in many display devices.

Atomic-force microscopy (AFM) methods to characterize interfacial dynamics of wetting and receptor/ligand binding  We have developed a dynamic AFM method to interrogate specific receptor-ligand interactions in polymer films used in biosensors.  In collaboration with Lee White (Univ. South Australia), we have also developed a method to measure local disjoining pressure of thin liquid films used as disk-drive lubricants and are applying this technique to ordered multilayer polymer films.

Research Websites

Complex Fluids Engineering
Biomolecular Engineering

Awards and Honors

  • 2014 Fellow, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE)
  • 2012, 2005 Kun Li Award for Excellence in Education
  • 2002 Beckman Young Investigator Award
  • 2001 NSF CAREER Award
  • 1998-1999 ASEE Postdoctoral Fellowship, Naval Research Laboratory
  • 1993-1997 Kodak Fellowship, University of Minnesota
  • 1988-1992 National Merit Scholar, University of Wisconsin


1. M.A. Fahrenkopf, B.E. Ydstie, T. Mukherjee, and J.W. Schneider, (2014) “Global Optimization of Rapid DNA Separation Designs using Micelle End-Labeled Free Solution Electrophoresis,” in press for Comp. Chem. Engr.
2. J.M. Goldman, L.A. Zhang, B.A. Armitage, D.H. Lee, and J.W. Schneider, (2013) “High Affinity ?PNA Sandwich Hybridization Assay for Rapid Detection of Short Nucleic Acid Targets with Single Mismatch Discrimination,” Biomacromolecules 14(7): 2253-2261.
3. A.P. Bowles, Y.T. Hsia, P.M. Jones, L.R. White, and J.W. Schneider, (2009) “Quasi-Equilibrium AFM Measurement of Disjoining Pressure in Lubricant Nanofilms II:  Effect of Substrate Materials,” Langmuir 25:2101-2106.
4. S.T. Grosser, J.M. Savard, and J.W. Schneider, (2007) “Identification of PCR Products using Peptide Nucleic Acid Amphiphiles in Micellar Electrokinetic Chromatography,” Anal. Chem. 79:9513-9519.
5. “A Tapping-Mode AFM Study of the Compression of Grafted Poly(ethylene glycol) Chains,” (2006) I.M. Nnebe and J.W. Schneider, Macromolecules 39:3616-3621.
6. “Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA) Amphiphiles:  Synthesis, Self-Assembly, and Duplex Stability,” (2004) J.P. Vernille, L.C. Kovell, and J.W. Schneider, Bioconj. Chem. 15:1314-1321.

Full Publications