Itzhaq Cohen-Karni-Department of Materials Science and Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

Itzhaq Cohen-Karni

Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering

Carnegie Mellon University
PTC 4307
Office: +1-412-268-4113
Phone: +1-857-277-4221
Nanoelectronics for Bio-Interfaces Group: 700 Technology Drive, Pittsburgh PA 15219


Tzahi Cohen-Karni is an assistant professor at the department of biomedical engineering in Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA USA. He received both his B.Sc. degree in Materials Engineering and the B.A. degree in Chemistry from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, in 2004. His M.Sc. degree in Chemistry from Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, in 2006 and his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA, in 2011. He was a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children’s Hospital at the labs of Robert Langer and Daniel S. Kohane from 2011 to 2013. Dr. Cohen-Karni received the Gold Graduate Student Award from the Materials Research Society in 2009, and received the 2012 International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry Young Chemist Award. In 2014 He was awarded the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation Young Investigator Research Award.


Technion IIT, Haifa, Israel, B.Sc., 2004, Materials Engineering

Technion IIT, Haifa, Israel, B.A., 2004, Chemistry

Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, M.Sc., 2006, Chemistry

Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA, Ph.D., 2011, Applied Physics

MIT, Cambridge MA, USA, Postdoc, 2013, Bioengineering


We are interested in the complex and unique interfaces between biology and nanoscience and nanotechnology. We apply techniques from chemistry, physics, and materials science to explore the rich world of biology. Our interests are broad: from the interactions of biomolecules, cells and tissue with nanostructures to investigation of the electrical properties of tissue and cells using nanoscale devices. Current active project in the lab:

Cell-Cell Communication and Network Function. We are using both top-down and bottom-up approaches to synthesize new materials and nanostructures to investigate the biophysical properties of tissue and cells. We are mainly interested in the mechanism by which cellular arrangements communicate. The grand goal will be to design an artificial tissue that incorporates inorganic elements – a 'smart' tissue!

Si nanowires and graphene, for example, are building blocks that we are synthesizing and incorporating in our research as ultrasensitive sensors. Moreover, we are developing new approaches to manipulate cells and engineer 'smart' tissues. We aim to push it further and blur the distinction between the digital and the biological worlds.

Cell-Nanostructure Interactions. We develop complex nanostructured topologies for cellular interfaces and investigations. Using a bottom-up approach, we design and synthesize nanomaterials-based platforms that allow tailoring of the materials’ optical, electrical and chemical properties. This approach allows a unique formation of structures in one-, two- and three-dimensional geometries that will be used in further experimental designs. The rationale behind incorporating nanostructures and forming a nanocomposite material is to compensate for materials intrinsic limitations such as mechanical properties, electrical conductivity, the absence of adhesive and microenvironment-defining moieties, and the inability of cells to self-assemble to three-dimensional tissues.


Recent Publications -

T. Cohen-Karni, C.M. Lieber, “Nanowire nanoelectronics: Building interfaces with tissue and cells at the natural scale of biology,” Pure Appl. Chem., 85, 883-901, (2013).

T. Cohen-Karni, K.J. Jeong, J. Tsui, G. Reznor, M. Mustata, M. Wanunu, A. Graham, C. Marks, D.C. Bell, R. Langer, D.S. Kohane, “Nanocomposite gold-silk nanofibers,” Nano Lett., 12, 5403–5406 (2012).

T. Cohen-Karni, R. Langer, D.S.  Kohane, “The Smartest Materials: The future of nanoelectronics in medicine”, ACS Nano, 6, 6541–6545 (2012).

T. Cohen-Karni*, D. Casanova*, J. Cahoon, Q. Qing, D. Bell and C.M. Lieber, “Synthetically-encoded ultrashort-channel nanowire transistors for fast, point-like cellular signal detection,” Nano Lett. 12, 2639-2644 (2012).

T. Cohen-Karni, B. Tian and C.M. Lieber, “Electrical recording from cardiac cells and tissue using nanowire transistors,” in Nanomedicine and the Cardiovascular System (eds. R.J. Hunter and V.R. Preedy), Science Publishers (2011).

B. Tian*, T. Cohen-Karni*, Q. Qing, X. Duan, P. Xie and C.M. Lieber, "Three-dimensional, flexible nanoscale field-effect transistors as localized bioprobes,” Science329, 831-834 (2010).

T. Cohen-Karni*, Q. Qing*, Q. Li*, Y. Fang and C.M. Lieber, "Graphene and nanowire transistors for cellular interfaces and electrical recording," Nano Lett.10, 1098-1102 (2010).

T. Cohen-Karni, B.P. Timko, L.E. Weiss and C.M. Lieber, "Flexible electrical recording from cells using nanowire transistor arrays," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA106, 7309-7313 (2009).

B.P. Timko*, T. Cohen-Karni*, G. Yu, Q. Qing, B. Tian and C.M. Lieber, "Electrical recording from hearts with flexible nanowire device arrays," Nano Lett.9, 914-918 (2009).