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Lara A. Estroff

  • Lara A. Estroff
  • Dept: Materials Science and Engineering
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Address: 329 Bard Hall
  • Phone: 607 254-5256
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Lara A. Estroff is currently an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Cornell University. She received a B.A. with honors from Swarthmore College (1997), with a major in Chemistry and a minor in Anthropology. Before beginning her graduate studies, she spent a year at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel as a visiting researcher in the labs of Profs Lia Addadi and Steve Weiner. During this time, she was introduced to the field of biomineralization and studied chemical approaches to archeological problems. In 2003, she received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Yale University for work done in Prof. Andrew D. Hamilton's laboratory on the design and synthesis of bio-inspired organic superstructures to control the growth of inorganic crystals. After completing graduate school, she was an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellow in Prof. George M. Whiteside's laboratory at Harvard University (2003-2005). Dr. Estroff's research group at Cornell focuses on bio-inspired materials synthesis, in particular, the study of crystal growth mechanisms in gels and their relationships to biomineralization. She has received several awards, including an NSF Early Faculty Career Award in 2009 and a J.D. Watson Young Investigator's award from NYSTAR in 2006.

Research Interests

Dr. Estroff's research focus is on the bio-inspired synthesis of organic-inorganic composites. Biological organisms create multi-functional and adaptive materials (e.g., bone, teeth, sea shells) from inexpensive, readily available building blocks using mild, energy-efficient, and non-toxic processes. Accordingly, there is tremendous interest in mimicking and controlling biology both to create new synthetic materials and to maintain the health of naturally occurring tissues. The two major themes of Dr. Estroff's research are: 1) The synthesis of new organic and inorganic materials with altered morphologies and mechanical properties. The design of these materials is based upon biological examples of mineralization. 2) The development of in vitro models to answer questions about the mechanisms of biomineralization. One primary research focus in the laboratory is the use of hydrogels to control the growth of crystals. A hydrogel, like Jell-O®, is a hydrated (usually > 95 w/v% water) organic matrix that does not exhibit flow (e.g., a vial containing a hydrogel can be turned upside down and the material will not flow). Hydrogels are associated with a number of biomineralizing systems, including the mother-of-pearl in mollusk shells and tooth enamel in mammals. An outstanding question is why organisms use hydrogels to control crystal growth. Dr. Estroff has established a research program to begin to address this question.

Research Projects

1. The integration of self-assembled monolayers with natural and synthetic hydrogels to create systems in which both nucleation and crystal growth are controlled. Examples include agarose and silk fibroin gels for controlling the growth of calcite (CaCO3) and agarose gels for growing bone-like carbonated apatite (Ca10(PO4,CO3)6(OH)2) crystals. Recent work in Estroff's laboratory has revealed that when calcite is grown in an agarose hydrogel, the organic material is occluded inside of the crystal. Currently, they are investigating the mechanical properties of these composites.

2. The use of block copolymers to structure amorphous calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate nanoparticles. Our approach is to combine calcium phosphate minerals with the well-established ability of amphiphilic (hydrophobic/hydrophilic) block copolymers to direct the assembly of inorganic materials into mesostructured hybrids (with e.g., cylindrical, lamellar, or bicontinuous morphologies). We will start from amorphous calcium phosphate particles as a precursor phase, which, after structure formation with the block copolymers, will be crystallized to form robust composites with carbonated apatite nanocrystals as the inorganic component. In the future, these nanostructured composites will be used to form self-hardening composites. (In collaboration with the Wiesner group.)

Teaching Interests

Materials Chemistry, biomaterials, biomineralization, biomedical materials

Selected Publications

  • Kim, Y Y., J D. Carloni, B. Demarchi, D. Sparks, D. Reid, M E. Kunitake, C C. Tang, M J. Duer, C L. Freeman, B. Pokroy, K. Penkman, J. Harding, Lara A. Estroff, S P. Baker, F C Meldrum. 2016. "Tuning Hardness in Calcite by Incorporation of Amino Acids." Nature Materials.
  • Asenath-Smith, E., R. Hovden, L F. Kourkoutis, L A Estroff. 2015. "Hierarchically Structured Hematite Architectures Achieved by Growth in a Silica Hydrogel." Journal of the American Chemical Society 137 (15): 5184-5192.
  • Moore, D T., H. Sai, K W. Tan, D M. Smilgies, W. Zhang, H J. Snaith, U. Wiesner, L A Estroff. 2015. "Crystallization Kinetics of Organic-Inorganic Trihalide Perovskites and the Role of the Lead Anion in Crystal Growth." Journal of the American Chemical Society 137 (6): 2350-2358.
  • Moore, D T., K W. Tan, H. Sai, U. Wiesner, Lara A. Estroff. 2015. "Direct crystallization route to methylammonium lead iodide perovskite from an ionic liquid." Chemistry of Materials.
  • Moore, D T., H. Sai, K W. Tan, L A. Estroff, U Wiesner. 2014. "Impact of the organic halide salt on final perovskite composition for photovoltaic applications." APL MATERIALS 2 (8).

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Affiliate 2013
  • Keynote Speaker (Gordon Research Seminar on Biomineralization) 2012
  • Faculty Early CAREER Award (National Science Foundation) 2009
  • Marilyn Emmons Williams Award (Cornell Undergraduate Research Board) 2009
  • Fiona Ip Li "78 & Donald Li "75 Excellence in Teaching Award (College of Engineering, Cornell University) 2007



  • BA (Chemistry), Swarthmore College, 1997
  • Ph D (Chemistry), Yale University, 2003