Evolution of an Idea: Hybrid Nanomaterials for a Living Bioelectronic Interface

Please contact Lisa Spicer at lms8@psu.edu for Zoom information.


Prof. Sawyer’s research group contributes to bridging the gap between novel hybrid materials and their use in new sensor systems that can shift paradigms of how, where, and when hazards (biological, environmental, chemical, or nuclear) can be detected. Specifically, the Nano/Bio research group investigates optical and electrical properties of metal oxide semiconductor nanomaterials, perovskites, two-dimensional high mobility materials, and organic materials to form hybrid material devices. In addition, her recent explorations received attention. In recent work, 2-D nanomaterials are fabricated at room temperature using bacteria. This bio-fabrication is a versatile, low-energy alternative to other fabrication methods with applications in sensing, bioremediation, and energy harvesting. These hybrid devices are designed to exploit synergistic relationships to enhance optical and electrical characteristics in new ways. As unique properties of material combinations are discovered, their effects create unprecedented responses to light or other surrounding media. Integration of these materials in optical and electronic devices contributes to converting these responses to electrical signals, a necessary development for innovation in an increasingly interconnected digital world.


Shayla Sawyer is an associate professor in the Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her Nano-Bio Optoelectronics research program expands the fundamental understanding, engineering processes, and potential applications of hybrid inorganic/organic materials for optoelectronic devices and sensors. She was recently featured in the November 2020 Issue of Scientific American for her bacterial nanomaterial fabrication research. Prof. Sawyer is a highly regarded teacher for her unorthodox teaching style. She has received all three of the highest teaching awards at Rensselaer including the 2020 Trustees’ Outstanding Teacher Award. She continues to lead pedagogical discussions across the university


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Media Contact: Lisa Spicer



The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science was created in the spring of 2015 to allow greater access to courses offered by both departments for undergraduate and graduate students in exciting collaborative research fields.

We offer B.S. degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, computer engineering and data science and graduate degrees (master's degrees and Ph.D.'s) in electrical engineering and computer science and engineering. EECS focuses on the convergence of technologies and disciplines to meet today’s industrial demands.

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