For her PhD in the Physical Chemistry Department at The Hebrew University, Natalie Fardian-Melamed worked on DNA-based nanoelectronics—where DNA is taken out of its biological context and used as a self-assembling nanowire to form diverse nanostructures. Natural DNA possesses low conductivity, so scientists have experimented by adding metal to it, but results have not been optimal. Dr. Fardian-Melamed used scanning tunneling microscopy, scanning tunneling spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy to reveal the morphological and electronic characteristics of a silver-containing material named E-DNA (E for “electrical”), concluding that E-DNA is attractive as a potential nanowire.
Dr. Fardian-Melamed’s postdoctoral research at Columbia University’s Mechanical Engineering Department has additional support from a Fulbright-ISEF award as well as the Marie Curie Individual Global Fellowship, where her proposal ranked #5 in physics worldwide. Dr. Fardian-Melamed intends to develop what she calls Atomic Energy Transfer Scanning Nano-Optical Microscopy (AETSOM), a lateral, ultra-high-resolution technique based on optical sources, which will be able to investigate materials in the single nanometer range. Her research could impact various fields of technology where single defects (atoms on semiconductor surfaces, etc.) are important for understanding functionality.
Since Dr. Fardian-Melamed grew up in a development town in Israel, where she did not have academic role models, she has worked hard to expose young people to science. At Columbia, she will participate in programs aimed at motivating and inspiring youngsters from diverse backgrounds to get interested in STEM, by conducting lab tours and scientific demonstrations in a fun and accessible way.