Rebecca Cademartiri has always loved science. She was equally enamored with biology, physics, and chemistry until she entered college and had to pick one. Now, as an adjunct professor of chemical and biological engineering (CBE) and materials science and engineering (MSE), the chemist plans to combine all her interests, exploring ways to connect biology and materials science.
Cademartiri received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany, and afterwards pursued a joint PhD from the University of Potsdam and University of Toronto. In Toronto, she met her husband, Ludovico, who also recently joined MSE as an assistant professor, working in the same research group. Since finishing her doctorate, Cademartiri has been building her research and educational portfolios with a variety of opportunities.
Her first postdoctoral position was at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, working on a research project in conjunction with SENTINEL—a network of researchers developing bioactive paper that will detect, capture, and deactivate water and airborne pathogens.
Cademartiri completed her second postdoctoral experience at Tufts University in Boston. This position took her down a new path focused more on biology. With the goal of providing researchers more flexibility to store mammalian cells, she and her team worked to stabilize cells in a hydrogel to keep them alive for longer periods of time before having to freeze them.
After this experience, Cademartiri began to think about what was missing from her education and experience and decided to broaden her expertise in physics. This led to a third postdoctoral position at Harvard University, researching the electrostatic interactions of millimeter-scale objects and their self-assembly. The knowledge and understanding gained at the millimeter-scale can potentially be applied to the research of crystallization, a field that has much more to be discovered.
At Iowa State, Cademartiri finds herself not only in her first teaching position, but also working along side her husband once again, an experience both Rebecca and Ludovico find enjoyable. She’s also figuring out how to navigate being a chemist in two engineering departments.
“A lot of chemistry departments are very traditional with very few applied research projects, which is something I enjoy doing quite a bit,” she says. “Engineering departments are much more open and diverse in terms of research projects, so that’s why I decided to take the position with MSE and CBE.”
Feeding off her past research experiences and her passion for trying something new, Cademartiri has jumped right in, starting her own lab to pursue an innovative field of research that combines the materials science and biological interactions from her first two post doctorate positions.
Her research will focus on the interaction of biological molecules and organisms, such as bacteria in cuts and infections, with materials. As one possible application, she wants to create an adhesive bandage that contains antibiotic properties in the gauze.
“If we can put an antibiotic that acts like Neosporin directly on the bandage, it saves a step, but more importantly makes these biomolecules more accessible to a large number of people,” Cademartiri said.
Once her research laboratory is established, Cademartiri will begin her teaching responsibilities, starting with lab courses and possibly working to larger course. Since Cademartiri is jointly appointed, she plans to teach a course in CBE one year and then MSE the following year. She will also be actively publishing papers and working towards obtaining patents.
With so much activity as she begins her academic career, Cademartiri is looking forward to working with undergraduate and graduate students in classes and labs. “I hope to become someone all my students can come to for mentoring, helping them enjoy their work and have the feeling they really learned something valuable,” she says.