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Ilona Kretzschmar
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering

Uniquely Functionalized Nanoparticles for Hierarchical Self-Assembly of Three-Dimensional Structures

Ilona Kretzschmar, who earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at the Technical University of Berlin, came to City College following postdoctoral work in surface science at Harvard, where she was a Fedeor-Lynen Fellow, and in molecular electronics at Yale. She brings her expertise in these three areas to her current field of nanoscience and technology.


Dr. Kretzschmar chose City College because she sensed an institution galvanized for change. “I saw a college dedicated to teaching which was renewing its commitment to research in a very exciting way,” she says. “Much of that potential has been realized in the two and a half years I have been here. The College keeps getting better and better.” As a new faculty member, Dr. Kretzschmar says that she has been given enough mentoring not to lose her way, but enough freedom to chart her own course. “The administration is very supportive of young people,” she says.


In her CAREER award research, Dr. Kretzschmar plans to modify particles to have “patchy” surfaces, analogous to the patches on a soccer ball, so they can be connected to other particles using molecular linkers.  “If you know the position of the patch and the way the patch reacts, you can control the assembly,” she explained.  “The future of nanotechnology is the ability to control the position of nanoparticles in structures.”


Controlling composition and position is essential to self-assembly of three-dimensional nanostructures that can be used in such fields as photonics and semiconductor electronics, Dr. Kretzschmar adds. “Three-dimensional structures can overcome the inherent limitations of silicon technology, which currently is restricted to two-dimensional surfaces that are running out of space.”


Dr. Kretzschmar will also apply her CAREER grant toward three initiatives to enhance educational opportunities for City College’s diverse student body. She conducts a research program for visiting international students, and she plans to organize a similar program to enable City undergraduates to do research abroad. “I have seven undergraduate students in my lab,” she says, “and I am constantly impressed with their motivation to do research and to do it well.”


She also proposed to develop an early career mentoring program for women and minority students, in collaboration with the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.  Additionally, she is working with City College’s Media and Communication Arts Department to train journalism and film students to produce stories about nanotechnology and its potential applications.

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