Carnegie Mellon University

Stefanie Sydlik

Stefanie A. Sydlik (S 2007)

Associate Professor of Chemistry, Chemistry

  • Mellon Institute 840
  • 412-268-5579


Prof. Sydlik received her Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the direction of Professor Timothy Swager studying novel triptycene and nanocarbon based materials. She continued her training at MIT as a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Robert Langer, developing a novel biomimetic block copolymer for cartilage repair and establishing the biocompatibility of graphene oxide. Through her training, she received fellowships from the Beckman Foundation, NSF, and NIH. She joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in August of 2015.


2012     Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Polymer science, materials chemistry, biomaterials, electronic materials

The Sydlik group synthesizes novel polymers and materials via the principles of molecular design. Drawing on her diverse background in electronic, mechanical, and biological materials, the group is uniquely situated at the interface of chemistry, biomedical engineering, and materials science. Currently, they are designing and implementing strategies to transform graphene oxide into a biomimetic, biodegradable scaffold for bone regeneration and applying concepts from classic polymer theory to design smart conductive materials with tunable mechanical properties. Details on specific projects can be found below.


Functional graphenic materials as cell instructive scaffolds for bone regeneration

Traumatic bone injury and childhood deformities are among the most common conditions that require surgical intervention. In these injuries, the best available treatments – bone grafts or implantation of metal hardware – can painfully fail. Regeneration of native tissue within a degradable scaffold would be preferable. Specifically, stem cells hold great promise to enable regeneration, however, a scaffold must be designed that has the ability to recruit stem cells and support their retention as they differentiate into functional tissue. No such scaffold currently exists. Functional graphenic materials (FGMs), a new class of scaffold material, offer excellent and tunable mechanical properties, degradability, and controllable surface chemistry that can be translated into instructive bioactivity. The Sydlik Group is pioneering the design and characterization of FGMs as uniquely strong, ordered, and degradable scaffolds with the ability to recruit, retain, and differentiate stem cells to enable bone regeneration.

New graphene chemistries for stem cell instructive surfaces

To develop FGMs, we must develop new chemistries to modify graphene to synthesize an ideal cell instructive scaffold for bone regeneration. Graphene oxide (GO) offers a plethora of oxygen containing functionalities, making it ideal for further modification using conventional organic reactions. Unfortunately, the delocalized pi electrons resulting from sp2 hybridization create unconventional molecular orbitals, which require specialized reactions to allow efficient functionalization. In the Sydlik Group, we are working to develop new chemistries to allow unprecedented control of the modification. Recently we have reported the use of the Arbuvoz and Claisen reactions for functionalization and are working towards new, mild reactions to allow the coupling of stem cell instructive moieties.

Therapeutic methacrylates as medical adhesives with controlled release

Current acrylate-based tissue adhesives are bioinert, non-degradable, and suffer limitations including brittleness (cyanoacrylate tissue adhesives) and hydrolytic release of formaldehyde degradation products. To overcome these limitations and enable better integration of implants, novel therapeutic methacrylates (TMAs) have been designed on the molecular level as comonomers to impart tunable mechanical properties, increased water stability, and covalent controlled release. This technology can be applied to tissue regeneration systems such as the interface where bone cement is applied as well as topic applications.

3D printing of thermosets

3D printing (3DP) has attracted significant attention in recent years as a new paradigm in manufacturing of structures with complex geometries. Most commercial 3D printers rely on thermoplastic polymers, which are extruded through the print head to reliably fabricate geometries.9 While convenient, several obstacles remain to develop the next generation of 3DP: first, weak adhesion between polymer layers results in significant mechanical anisotropy in the bulk, and secondly, many complex parts that require materials of varying stiffnesses, and abrupt compliance transitions represent a point of failure. To overcome these challenges, we are developing the ability to 3D print thermoset copolymer systems that enable mechanical properties to be dynamically tuned through an order of magnitude. This tunability cannot be realized with thermoplastics, since the polymer is synthesized before printing: thus, covalent bonds are not made during the processing, which offers tenability of printed parts. We plan to extend this technology to merge it with our graphene biomaterial interests to allow the printing of cell instructive 3D scaffolds.


Peptide-functionalized reduced graphene oxide as a bioactive mechanically robust tissue regeneration scaffold
Holt, B. D., Arnold, A. M. and Sydlik, S. A, Polym. Int, 2017, 66, 1190–1198. doi:10.1002/pi.5375

Covalently-controlled drug delivery via therapeutic methacrylic tissue adhesives
Zoe M. Wright, Brian D. Holt, and Stefanie A. Sydlik, J. Mater. Chem. B, 2017, 5, 7743-7755, DOI: 10.1039/C7TB01151B

Covalently-controlled drug delivery via therapeutic methacrylic tissue adhesives
Zoe M. Wright, Brian D. Holt and Stefanie A. Sydlik, J. Mater. Chem. B, 2017, 5, 7743-7755

Increased Toughness and Excellent Electronic Properties in Regioregular Random Copolymers of 3-Alkylthiophenes and Thiophene
Smith, Z. C.; Wright, Z. M.; Arnold, A. M.; Sauve, G.; McCullough, R. D.; Sydlik, S. A.; Adv. Elec. Mater., 2016, doi:10.1002/aelm.201600316

In It for the Long Haul: The Cytocompatibility of Aged Graphene Oxide and Its Degradation Products
Holt, B. D.; Arnold, A. M.; Sydlik, S. A.; Adv. Health. Mater., 2016, doi: 10.1002/adhm.201600745

Graphene Oxide as a Scaffold for Bone Regeneration
Holt, B. D.; Wright, Z. M.; Arnold, A. M.; Sydlik, S. A.; Invited review for WIRES Nanomedicine and Nanotechnology, 2016, doi:10.1002/wnan.1437

The In Vivo Compatibility of Graphene Oxide and the Effect of Oxidation State
Sydlik, S. A.; Jhunjhunwala, S.; Webber, M. J.; Anderson, D. G.; Langer, R. S.; ACS Nano, 2015, 9, 3866- 3874.
Featured on NanoTechWeb.

A Perspective on the Clinical Translation of Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering
Webber, M. J.; Khan, O. F.; Sydlik, S. A.; Tang, B. C.; Annals. Biom. Eng., 2015, 43, 641- 656.

Apparent Roughness as an Indicator of Deoxygenation of Graphene Oxide
den Boer, D.; Weis, J. G.; Zuniga, C. A.; Sydlik, S. A.; Swager, T. M.; Chem. Mater. 2014, 26, 4849- 4855.

Phosphate Functionalized Graphene with Tunable Mechanical Properties
Goods, J. B.; Sydlik, S. A.; Walish, J. J., Swager, T. M.; Adv. Mater., 2014, 26, 718- 723.

Supercapacitors from Free-Standing Polypyrrole/ Graphene Nanocomposites
de Oliveira, H. P.; Sydlik, S. A.; Swager, T. M.; J. Phys. Chem. C, 2013, 117, 10270- 10276.

Effects of Graphene and Carbon Nanotube Fillers on the Shear Properties of Epoxies
Sydlik, S. A., J. Poly. Sci. Part B: Polym. Phys., 2013, 51, 997- 1006.

Epoxy-functionalized MWNT for Advanced Adhesives
Sydlik, S. A.; Lee, J.-H.; Walish, J. J.; Thomas, E. L.; Swager, T. M.; Carbon, 2013, 59, 109- 120.

Triptycene-Containing Polyethers via Acyclic Diene Metathesis Polymerization
Sydlik, S. A.; Delgado, P. A.; Inomata, S.; VanVeller, B.; Swager, T. M.; Wagener, K. B.; J. Poly. Sci. Part A, 2013, 51, 1695- 1706.

Functional Graphenic Materials via a Claisen Rearrangement
Sydlik, S. A.; Swager, T. M.; Adv. Func. Mater., 2013, 23, 1873- 1882.


Years Position
2015 (July) Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
2013–2015 Postdoctoral Fellow, Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Awards and Distinctions

Years Award
2022 Moore Inventor Fellow + Tartan on the Rise
2021 World Economic Forum 2020 world's leading young scientists
2019 ACS Polymer Materials Science and Engineering Young Investigator Award
2018 PMSE Young Investigators Award
2014–2015 Ruth L. Kirschstein NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship
2013 ACS Excellence in Graduate Polymer Research, MIT Chemistry Nominee
2008–2011 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
2008 MIT Department of Chemistry Award for Outstanding Teaching
2007 Carnegie Mellon Judith A. Resnik Award
2006–2007 Beckman Scholars Program Fellowship