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Chemistry professor receives $500,000 from National Science Foundation to develop portable diagnostic devices

Peng Li

A research project led by  Peng Li, assistant professor of chemistry in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, has received $500,000 in continuing grant funding from the National Science Foundation. The main goal of the project is to develop a portable digital diagnostic testing platform for complex diseases that offers high detection sensitivity and accurate measurements.

Li’s project, Compact Digital Biosensing System Enabled by Localized Acoustic Streaming, is being funded as part of the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program. 

The project will seek to create integrated devices that can detect low abundance nucleic acid and protein biomarkers without requiring dedicated instruments and laboratory space. It will also create unique educational opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds to solve research problems using multidisciplinary approaches. 

“This NSF CAREER award is well-deserved,” said Gregory Dudley, Eberly Family Distinguished Professor and chair of the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry. “It will support an ambitious expansion of Dr. Li’s program, which is already nationally and internationally recognized. We are excited to see his vision for low-cost, portable diagnostic devices unfold in the coming years.”

Li joined the Chemistry Department in 2016. His research includes control of cell movement and separation using sound waves in microfluidic devices. He is a pioneer in the use of sound waves to move and manipulate objects for chemical analysis, drawing on expertise in chemistry, physics and engineering. 

In 2021, Li was named a recipient of the Young Investigator Award from Eli Lilly for his research, publication record and the impact he has made in the field of analytical chemistry.