Carnegie Mellon University

CNAST and DNAZone Outreach are proud sponsors of the 2014 CMU iGEM team!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Carnegie Mellon, and the city of Pittsburgh, are taking steps to encourage students of all ages to get involved in the sciences. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines are rapidly growing topics of interest - and you don’t have to look far to find opportunities for students to explore these fields. Carnegie Mellon’s successful iGEM team paired up with the Carnegie Science Center’s Girls Programs to help expose young females to the STEM disciplines.  

Carnegie Mellon’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team competed in the Synthetic Biology competition for the third time this past weekend, and came home with some bragging rights. The iGEM competition challenges students to build biological systems and operate them in living cells. Undergraduate teams are given a kit of biological parts from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, and in collaboration with their schools, work on developing their own biological systems during the summer.

The university’s seven-member team has been focusing on how to detect high levels of estrogen in wastewater, which can lower the number of male fish and have negative effects on the entire ecosystem. The team took home the gold medal and best poster award this year. The previous two years have resulted in awards for the best presentation in the regional competition, experimental measure approach at the regional competition and best foundational advance at the world competition.

Read the full article on Carnegie Mellon's Electrical and Computer Engineering Website

View the 2014 CMU iGEM Team Website

View the 2014 CMU iGEM Team sponsors

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gift Will Allow Center To Create Synthetic Molecules Geared Toward Understanding and Treating Genetic, Neurodegenerative and Infectious Diseases

By: Jocelyn Duffy,, 412-268-9982

PITTSBURGH—The DSF Charitable Foundation has given $3.1 million to Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology (CNAST) to enable the multidisciplinary center to apply synthetic chemistry solutions to real-world problems, including the diagnosis and treatment of infectious disease, neurodegenerative disorders and cancer.

"The DSF Charitable Foundation's extraordinary support for CNAST at Carnegie Mellon will have an impact on many lives," said Subra Suresh, president of Carnegie Mellon University. "This pathbreaking research will advance the understanding of cellular processes and help to shape the way we diagnose and treat many kinds of disease."

Read the full press release on CMU's website

Monday, March 24, 2014

Taylor Canady is not someone who can sit idly by while kids struggle to learn science.

The Carnegie Mellon University doctoral student in chemistry, who thinks learning science should be fun, created a kit for teaching K-12 students about DNA.

"In the community I grew up in, I saw so many students not just uninterested in studying science, technology, engineering and math but uncomfortable even walking into those environments," Canady said. "I want to change that. I want to give kids opportunities like the ones I have been given."

Canady's work at CMU is centered on developing solutions to problems in molecular biology. He offers science demonstrations to K-12 students through DNAZone, the outreach program of the university's Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology at CMU.

"Science isn't just for people with high IQs. Science is about thinking and asking questions," Canady said. "How can I improve agriculture? How can I help people who are hard of hearing or who have Alzheimer's disease? Any number of situations have the potential to put a fire in somebody to want to learn more for the purpose of making an impact."

He added, "I want kids to know that no matter what their circumstances are, they can become scientists."

Read the full story on Carnegie Mellon University's website

April 24, 2014

DNAZone, CNAST's outreach program, showed visiting middle-schoolers the fun of working at Carnegie Mellon University at this year's "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" day. This annual event at Carnegie Mellon is affiliated with the national campaign. The program offered eighteen different activity sessions, which kept students on their toes during their day at the office. Students participated in two sessions, with topics ranging from "Making Neuroscience Fun" to "Ultimate Frisbee."

CNAST graduate students, undergraduate students and faculty faciliated DNAZone's presentation, titled "Chemistry is all around you!" As part of the presentation, the children were able to participate in two different activities. After learning about the volunteers and their life at Carnegie Mellon, the children got right to the science. In the first activity, the children marbled paper with shaving cream and food coloring to explore water, polarity, and hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials. In the second activity, children learned about solubility by making chocolate mousse.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

He Develops Synthetic DNA-like Materials for Bio-Analytical Devices, Pharmaceutical Processing and Drug Delivery

Contact: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's James W. Schneider has been elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) for leading-edge research on the development of novel materials for biosensing. He will be honored March 24 by AIMBE at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

"It's very gratifying to have our group's work recognized this way," said Schneider, a professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering. "The high-speed, gel-free DNA analysis methods we have developed will provide faster, cheaper, and more reliable routes to medical diagnostics and forensic identification."

Schneider's work focuses on the development of synthetic DNA-like materials for bio-analytical devices, pharmaceutical processing and drug delivery.

Read the full press release on Carnegie Mellon University's website

February 17, 2014

DNAZone recently joined hip hop dancers, magicians and opera singers at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh (JCC) for their Feburary Sunday Sampler. Proving that science can be just as much fun as "The Wobble," volunteers engaged the group of 3rd-5th grade students with kitchen chemistry and DNA extractions. The three-week class, "Chemistry Is All Around You!" explored a different topic each Sunday:

Week One: DNA Really "Shows Your True Colors"
The students saw for themselves that all living organisms have DNA--even strawberries--by extracting it! Using common household products, the students were able to collect a large sample of white, gooey DNA from their strawberries. For the second activity of the day, students learned about the structure of DNA using an interactive kit made from buttons, snaps, magnets and Velcro. Then, the students were challenged to construct a stable DNA strand using the knowledge they learned about base pairing.

Week Two: The Science of Cooking
The students performed a series of small experiments designed to reinforce the concept of solubility and introduce the idea of dispersions. First, students tested solubility with salt, oil, food coloring and water. Then, emulsifying agents were introduced to create an emulsion with water. Students further explored the properties of water-loving and water-hating materials like water, shaving cream and food coloring by creating colored marble paper with these materials. The last (and favorite) challenge for the students was to make an emulsion with chocolate and juice to form a mousse. Then, the students enjoyed the tasty outcome of their experiment! 

Week Three: The Art of Science and Color
The students constructed a spectroscope from black cardstock and electrical tape for this week's lesson on light and color. Using a DVD or CD and the spectroscope, the students were able to separate the components of light and see firsthand what colors make up white light. The students used the spectrosope in both artificial light and natural sunlight and explored the difference between the color spectrum in each setting. In addition, they played with color filters and their spectroscope to learn about light absorption. 

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January 30, 2014

By Rebecca Sodergren
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Do you have a preference for particular types of coffee? Or wine? Subha R. Das, assistant professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, will explain what's behind those flavors in a Slow Food Pittsburgh presentation at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Harvard & Highland above Union Pig & Chicken in East Liberty.

The energetic Mr. Das will lead a discussion about the basics of taste and taste perceptions, focusing on coffee, soda and wine.

In fact, it was over an afternoon cup of coffee that Mr. Das and Roberto Gil, director of Carnegie Mellon's Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) facility, began to mull the idea of analyzing beverages to create flavor profiles using NMR, a technique that allows scientists to determine a substance's molecular chemistry, structure and dynamics.

Other scientists have already developed techniques for pinpointing various additives or substances in beverages, so that's not what these two are trying to do. Instead, they're trying to create "fingerprints" for different beverages, so that each type of beverage has its own unique NMR fingerprint that distinguishes it from every other type of beverage. Thus, you could identify a beverage based solely on its NMR line graph, which (for the non-scientists among us) looks a bit like an electrocardiogram printout. Peaks on the graph represent sugars, fats and other compounds in the beverage.

They're calling it Bev-O-Metrics.

So far, the professors have found that they seem to be able to detect one type of coffee over another. They also have students working on wines, and they've developed a database of flavor profiles for a number of different wines

Read the full story on Pittsburgh Post Gazette's website

January 30, 2014

Contacts: Jocelyn Duffy / 412-268-9982 /
               Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University President Emeritus Jared L. Cohon and University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg will receive the Carnegie Science Center's highest honor, the Chairman's Award, at the center's Awards for Excellence banquet on May 9.

Additionally, Jay Whitacre, professor of materials science and engineering and engineering and public policy, was named the recipient of the Advanced Materials Award, and Taylor Canady, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry, was named winner of the University/Post-Secondary Student Award.

The Carnegie Science Center is honoring Cohon, University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy, and Nordenberg for forging a strong collaboration between Carnegie Mellon and Pitt that helped the universities and Pittsburgh excel in science, entrepreneurship and academics. According to the Science Center, joint programs, like the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, the Quality of Life Technology Center, the Digital Greenhouse, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and the Robotics Foundry have attracted billions of dollars in grants and sponsorships to the Pittsburgh region, drawn numerous talented academics and professionals to the area, and made Pittsburgh a hotbed for cutting-edge research.

Whitacre is being honored for developing a novel sodium-ion battery that can be made using low-cost materials and manufacturing techniques. The technology has resulted in a spinoff venture, Aquion Energy, which is anticipated to grow into a 300-person enterprise by 2015. Whitacre also received an honorable mention for the Start-Up Entrepreneur Award.

Canady is being recognized for his outreach efforts. As part of Carnegie Mellon's Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology's DNAZone outreach program, Canady helped to develop a hands-on kit that helps K-12 students learn about DNA. He also conducts research on the synthesis of nucleic acid molecules that can be used to study mRNA translation in cells.

In addition, alumnus Ronald Bianchini (E'83,'86,'89), co-founder, president and CEO of Avere Systems, was named the winner of the Information Technology Award. Entertainment Technology Center Professor Jesse Schell received an honorable mention Entrepreneur Award for Schell Games, and Associate Professor of Computer Science Luis Von Ahn received an honorable mention Entrepreneur Award for Duolingo.

Read the full press release on Carnegie Mellon University's website

January 30, 2014

Canady Honored for Outreach Work with K-12 Students

By: Jocelyn Duffy,, 412-268-9982

PITTSBURGH—When Taylor Canady took biology in high school, he found the class to be pretty boring — a lot of lectures and not a whole lot of fun. When he got to college at the University of New Mexico and saw his professors bring lecture material to life in the lab, he realized that science could be really exciting.

Now a doctoral student in Carnegie Mellon's Department of Chemistry, Canady is making sure that young students get to see just how exciting science can be. In recognition for his work, Canady has been named the 2014 recipient of the Carnegie Science Award's University/Post-Secondary Student Award. The awards are given by the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh to recognize and promote outstanding science and technology achievements in western Pennsylvania.

Although he is busy conducting research on the biological functions and applications of nucleic acids in the labs of Chemistry Professor Bruce Armitage and Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biological Sciences Marcel Bruchez, Canady frequently participates in the activities of DNAZone, the outreach program of the Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology (CNAST) at Carnegie Mellon. Through the program, he volunteers to give science demonstrations to students from kindergarten to high school.

Read the full press release on Carnegie Mellon University's website