Carnegie Mellon University

Catalina Achim

Catalina Achim (S 1998)

Professor, Chemistry


1998 Ph.D. Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University


Supramolecular chemistry, metal-containing peptide nucleic acids, electron transfer, molecular electronics, coordination complexes with spin transitions, Mössbauer spectroscopy, molecular magnetism, molecule-based materials


Hybrid inorganic-nucleic acid structures for nanotechonogy and biological applications

Our research is aimed at the use of molecular recognition properties of nucleic acids and transition metal ions to create nanostructures. We have shown that peptide nucleic acids can be used as scaffold for the rational organization of metal ions. Substitution of nucleobases with ligands affords PNA duplexes with affinity for metal ions at predefined positions. The properties of metal-containing duplexes depend on the interplay between interactions specific to the nucleic acid and to the metal ions, e.g. hydrogen bonding and metal coordination. Our results open opportunities for using metal-containing duplexes in biological and nanotechnological applications.

Polynuclear complexes with spin transitions for information storage applications

Materials that are bistable, i.e. which can exist in two different states under similar conditions, can be used in the construction of information storage devices. Molecules that have a demonstrated ability to exist in two different states, namely states with a different spin are Fe(II) coordination complexes. Depending on the strength of the ligand field of the Fe(II) ions in specific coordination complexes, it is possible that the Fe(II) sites undergo a spin transition between low spin (S = 0) and high spin (S = 2) states. In solid state, intermolecular interactions between the complexes influence the abruptness of the spin transition and can lead to hysteresis, an essential condition for bistability. We study Fe-containing polynuclear complexes that undergo spin transitions because the mechanical and/or exchange interactions between the metal ions in these complexes are easier to characterize than intermolecular interactions and can provide insight in how to rationally design molecule-based, bistable materials.


The Molecular Conductance of Stitched Nucleic Acid Duplexes
Beall, E.; Sargun, A.; Ulku, S.; Bae, Y.; Wierzbinski, E.; Clever, C.; Waldeck, D.H.; Achim, C. 2018, J. Phys. Chem. C, 122, 7533–7540.

Chirality Dependent Charge Transfer Rate in Oligopeptides
Tassinari, F.; Jayarathna, D.R.; Kantor-Uriel, N.; Davis, K.L.; Varade, V.; Achim, C.; Naaman, 2018, Adv. Mater., ahead of print.

Chiral molecules enhanced extinction ratio of Quantum dots (QDs) coupled to random plasmonic structures
Bezen, L.; Yochelis, S.; Jayarathna, D.R.; Bhunia, D.; Achim, C.; Paltiel, Y., 2018, Langmuir, 34, 3076–3081.

Effects of the Backbone and Chemical Linker on the Molecular Conductance of Nucleic Acid Duplexes
Edward Beall, Selma Ulku, Chaoren Liu, Emil Wierzbinski, Yuqi Zhang, Yookyung Bae, Peng Zhang, Catalina Achim, David N. Beratan, and David H. Waldeck, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017 139 (19), 6726-6735, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b02260

Strong Ferromagnetic Exchange Coupling Mediated by a Bridging Tetrazine Radical in a Dinuclear Nickel Complex
Toby J. Woods, Heather D. Stout, Brian S. Dolinar, Kuduva R. Vignesh, Maria F. Ballesteros-Rivas, Catalina Achim, and Kim R. Dunbar Inorg. Chem., 2017, 56 (20), 12094-12097. DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.7b01812

Comparative Incorporation of PNA into DNA Nanostructures
Pedersen, R.O.; Kong, J.; Achim, C.; LaBean, T.H., 2015, Molecules, 20, 17645–17658.

Spin Crossover in Tetranuclear Fe(II) Complexes {[(tpma)Fe(μ-CN)]4}X4 (X = ClO4-, BF4-)
Hietsoi, O.; Dunk, P.W.; Stout, H.D.; Arroyave, A.; Kovnir, K.; Irons, R.E.; Kassenova, N.; Yerkassov, R.; Achim, C.; Shatruk, M., 2014, Inorg. Chem., 53, 13070–13077.

Luminescence Quenching by Photoinduced Charge Transfer between Metal Complexes in Peptide Nucleic Acids
Yin, X., Kong, J., De Leon, A., Li, Y., Ma, Z., Wierzbinski, E., Achim, C., Waldeck, D.H. 2014, J. Phys. Chem. B, 118, 9037–9045.

A Three-Step Kinetic Model for Electrochemical Charge Transfer in the Hopping Regime
Yin, X., Wierzbinski, E., Lu, H., Bezer, S., De Leon, A. R., Davis, K.L., Achim, C., Waldeck, D.H., 2014, J. Phys. Chem. A, 118, 7579–7589.

The capture of low-energy electrons by PNA versus DNA
Markus, T.Z. de Leon, A.R., Reid, D., Achim, Naaman, R., 2013, J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 4, 3298–3302, DOI: 10.1021/jz401529v.

Metal Complexes as Alternative Base Pairs or Triplets in Natural and Synthetic Nucleic Acid Structures
DeLeon, A., Kong, J., Achim, C., in "Metallofoldamers: Supramolecular Architectures from Helicates to Biomimetics" G. Maayan, M Albrecht (Eds.), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2013, 333–377.

Charge Transfer Induced Spin Transitions
Shatruk. M. Achim. C., Dunbar, K., in "Spin-Crossover Materials: Properties and Applications", 2013, Eds. M.A. Halcrow, John Wiley & Sons, Oxford, UK, 171–202, ISBN: 978-1-1199-9867-9.

The Single Molecule Conductance and Electrochemical Electron Transfer Rate Are Related by a Power Law
Wierzbinski, E., Venkatramani, R., Davis, K.L., Bezer, S., Kong, J., Xing, Y., Borguet, E., Achim, C., Beratan, D.N., Waldeck, D.H., 2013, ACSNano, 7, 5391–5401, DOI: 10.1021/nn401321k.


2018–present Rotator NSF Program Director in the Chemistry Division
2012–present Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
2013–2014 Rotator NSF Program Director in the Chemistry Division
2007–2012 Associate Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
2009–present Associate Director, Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology, Carnegie Mellon University
2005–present Research Associate in the Section of Minerals, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
2001–2007 Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
1999–2001 Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
1998 Ph.D. Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University

Awards and Distinctions

2017 The Mark Gelfand Service Award for Educational Outreach, Carnegie Mellon University
2015-2016 ELATE at Drexel® Fellow
2010 Julius Askhin Teaching Award, Mellon College of Science, Carnegie Mellon University
2006 Sloan Research Fellowship
2004 NSF-CAREER Award
2004 "ACS PROGRESS/Dreyfus Lectureship" award
2003 Camille-Dryfus Teacher-Scholar Award
2001 NIH National Research Service Award