Orange Alert

Rachel C. Steinhardt

Rachel C. Steinhardt

Rachel C. Steinhardt

Pronouns: She/Hers
Assistant Professor


3-008 Center for Science and Technology
Office: 315.443.2127




B.S., 2005, University of California, Berkeley

M.S., 2010, University of California, Santa Cruz

Ph.D., 2015, University of California, Irvine

Postdoctoral Researcher, 2018, University of Chicago

Social/Academic Links

Courses Taught

CHE 600: Chemical Biology

CHE 414/614: Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry

Biographic Overview

Our lab has two main interests: chemical biology and soft polymeric materials. In chemical biology we are developing new neurobiological probes to study learning and memory and diseases like Parkinson’s and drug addiction. In soft polymeric materials we are developing new moving, force generating molecules for soft actuators in soft robots.

Research Specializations

Organic Synthesis, Soft Materials, Medicinal Chemistry, Chemical Biology

Research Interests

Chemical Biology: We design and synthesize molecular probes which bind native dopamine and serotonin receptors, with a particular focus on DRD2, 5HT2A, and 5HT2C. We are interested in creating chemical tools to understand how these critical receptors contribute to learning, mental illness and addiction, and neurodegenerative disease.

Soft Materials: Our goal is to develop new tetherless soft actuators for soft robotics and mechanobiology. In our lab, we create the moving materials and incorporate them into soft robotic structures. We are especially interested in building strong, 3D structures that exhibit dynamic shape changes, or access multiple gait/movement methods.

Lab Affiliations

Bioinspired Institute

Courtesy Appointments

Biomedical and Chemical Engineering

Honors and Awards

ACS Cottrell New Faculty Workshop, 2018

ASBMB Image Workshop, 2018

PMSE (Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Division) Session Co-Chair, ACS National Meeting, San Francisco, CA, 2017

UC Berkeley Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program Fellowship, 2003


Yao, Z.; Zhang, B. S.; Steinhardt, R. C.; Mills, J. H.; Prescher, J. A. Multicomponent bioluminescence imaging with an extended pi-luciferin. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2020, 142, 14080. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.0c01064

Moser, B. A.; Escalante-Buendia, Y; Steinhardt, R. C.; Rosenberger, M. Cassaidy, B.; Naorem, N. Chon, A. C.; Nguyen, M.; Tran, N.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. Small Molecule NF-kB Inhibitors as Immune Potentiators for Enhancement of Vaccine Adjuvants. ChemRxiv

Wu. M.; Moser, B. A.; Steeves, T. M.; Figueroa, A.; Wallace, B. M.; Kim, S. T.; Esser-Kahn, A. P.; Steinhardt, R. C. Photon upconversion for the enhancement of microfluidic photochemical synthesis. RSC Adv., 2019, 9, 26172–26175.

Kimani, F.; Kim, S. -M.; Steinhardt, R. C.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. Correlating the Structure and Reactivity of a Contact Allergen, DNCB, and its Analogs to Sensitization Potential. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett., 2019,

Moser, B. A.; Steinhardt, R. C.; Escalante-Buendia, Y.; Bolt, D. A.; Barker, K. M.; Yoo, S.; McGonnigal, B. G.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. Immune potentietor for increased safety and improved protection of vaccines by NF-kB. bioRxiv DOI:

Tom, J. K.; Albin, T. J.; Manna, S.; Moser, B. A.; Steinhardt, R. C.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. Applications of Immunomodulatory Immune Synergies to Adjuvant Discovery and Vaccine Development. Trends Biotechnol., 2019, DOI:

Brubaker, K., Garewal, A., Steinhardt, R.C. et al. Bio-inspired counter-current multiplier for enrichment of solutes. Nat Commun 9, 736 (2018).

Steinhardt, R. C.; Hiew, S.; Mohapatra, H.; Nguyen, D.; Oh, Z.; Truong, R.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. Cooperative CO2 binding by a bifunctional guanidine and bifunctional alcohol. ACS Cent. Sci. 2017, 3, 1271-1275.

Steinhardt, R. C.‡; Steeves, T. S.‡; Wallace, B. M.; Moser, B.; Fishman, D. A.; Esser-Kahn, A. P. Photothermal nanoparticle initiation enables radical polymerization and yields unique, uniform microfibers with broad spectrum light. 2017, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 44, 39034-39039.

Steinhardt, R. C.; Rathbun, C. M.; McCutcheon, D. C.; Krull, B.; Porterfield, W. B.; Furche, F.; Prescher, J. A. Brominated luciferins are versatile bioluminescent probes. ChemBioChem 2017, 18, 96–100.

Moser, B. A.; ‡ Steinhardt, R. C.‡; Esser-Kahn, A. P. Surface coating of nanoparticles reduces background inflammatory activity while increasing particle uptake and delivery. ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng. 2016, 3, 206–213. DOI: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.6b00473 ‡ denotes equal contribution

Steinhardt, R. C.; O’Neill, J. A.; McCutcheon, D. C; Rathbun, C. M.; Prescher, J. A. Design and synthesis of an alkynyl luciferin analogue for bioluminescence imaging. Chem. Eur. J. 2016, 22, 3671–3675. doi: 10.1002/chem.201503944

McCutcheon, D. C.; Paley, M. A.; Steinhardt, R. C.; Prescher, J. A. Expedient synthesis of electronically-modified luciferins for bioluminescence imaging. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 7604-7607.

Hirschi, A.; Cecchini, M.; Steinhardt, R. C.; Schamber, M. R.; Dick, F. A.; Rubin, S. M. An overlapping kinase and phosphatase docking site regulates activity of the Retinoblastoma protein. Nature Struct. Mol. Biol. 2010, 17, 1051-1057. DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1868

Halpenny, G. M.; Steinhardt, R. C.; Okialda, K. A.; Mascharak, P. K. Characterization of pHEMA-based hydrogels that exhibit light-induced bactericidal effect via release of NO. J. Mater. Sci. Mater. Med. 2009, 20, 2353-2360. DOI:10.1007/s10856-009-3795-0

Mizisin, A. P.; Steinhardt, R. C.; O’Brien, J. S.; Calcutt, N. A. TX14(A), a prosaposin-derived peptide, reverses established nerve disorders in streptozotocin-diabetic rats and prevents them in galactose-fed rats. J. Neuropath. Exp. Neurol. 2001, 60, 953-960.