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Electrical and Computer Engineering

Plasmonics: Bottom-up Approaches to Building New Optical Materials for Biosensing Technologies

Andrea Tao, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego

Abstract
Engineered nanomaterials are the core of next-generation biomedical technologies that promise rapid diagnostics,
cell-specific therapeutics, and noninvasive treatments. Real-time chemical monitoring is essential to track how
nanomaterials interact with cells, fluids, and biological molecules. This talk will address the challenge of sensing
dynamic chemical changes within live cells and tissue. Plasmonic biosensing relies on the collection of scattered
light from metal nanostructures that behave like optical antennae, concentrating electromagnetic fields at their surface.
While nanostructures fabricated by lithography have proven successful for on-chip surface plasmon resonance (SPR)
biosensing platforms, free-standing colloidal metal nanostructures can be wholly integrated into fluids and biological
environments. Nanocrystals synthesized using wet chemistry yield unique electromagnetic field enhancements near
their surfaces, allowing a “design-by-synthesis” approach for constructing materials by hierarchical assembly. Because
single nanoparticles can also behave as independent sensors, plasmonic biosensing has the potential for multiple-channel
detection and nanoscale spatial resolution. The ultimate goal for this research is an understanding of the bio/nano interface
to establish general design principles for “smart” nanomaterials that are bio-compatible, capable of biorecognition, and can
navigate complex intracellular pathways.

Biography
Andrea R. Tao is currently an assistant professor at UC San Diego in the Department of NanoEngineering. She earned an
A.B. in Chemistry & Physics from Harvard University in 2002 and a doctoral degree in Chemistry from the University of
California, Berkeley in 2007, where she conducted her dissertation research on colloidal synthesis and self-assembly.
Prior to San Diego, she was a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the
interdisciplinary program of Biomolecular Science & Engineering. She is the 2008 recipient of the International Union of
Pure and Applied Chemistry Prize for Young Chemists.