The Achim Lab

About Catalina Achim

photo of Catalina Achim

Phone: (412) 268-9588
Fax: (412) 268-1061
Office: Mellon Institute 833

Catalina Achim is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry. She grew up in Măcin, Romania, a city of ten thousand people on the board of the river Danube, about two hundred miles away from the Black Sea. The two thousand-year old Roman ruins of the city Arrubium can still be seen at the outskirts of Macin. Her parents, both middle school teachers, passed on to her the teaching genes, and both reluctantly and happily, let her follow up her pursuit of Chemistry wherever it took her. She holds a B.S./ M.S. from the Polytechnical Institute of Bucharest, Romania, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Melon University, both in Chemistry. In 2001 she was hired back by her alma mater to serve as Professor in the Chemistry Department at Carnegie Mellon.

Her research interests lie in the way in which metal ions can change the course of nanotechnology for the better when used discerningly and rationally. In science jargon, graduate and undergraduate students in her lab identify ways in which transition metal ions can be placed in tens of nanometer structures based on nucleic acids to confer special electronic and magnetic properties to these structures.

In 2007, she founded DNAZone, the STEM outreach program of the Center of Nucleic Acids Science and Technology, with the goal of lowering the barriers to educational outreach for the researchers in the Center and to doing science experiments for K-12 students. DNAZone volunteers work yearly with tens of teachers to sow the seeds of interest in science hundreds of students in the Pittsburgh area. The generosity and the passion for education outreach of the CNAST students and faculty, the interest and excitement for science triggered by hands-on experiments in the K-12 students, and the dedication of science teachers and education administrators in schools in Allegheny County and at CMU have made the work in DNAZone easy and rewarding. To paraphrase Andrew Carnegieís core statement “My heart is in my work.”, “DNAZoneís educational work is at the outreach programís heart.”



Years Award
2017 The Mark Gelfand Service Award for Educational Outreach, Carnegie Mellon University
2015-2016 ELATE at Drexel® Fellow
2010 Julius Askhin Teaching Award, Mellon College of Science, Carnegie Mellon University
2006 Sloan Research Fellowship
2004 NSF-CAREER Award
2004 "ACS PROGRESS/Dreyfus Lectureship" award
2003 Camille-Dryfus Teacher-Scholar Award
2001 NIH National Research Service Award
1997 Graduate Student Award of the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh for characterization of novel iron- oxo proteins using Mössbauer spectroscopy
1987-1989 National Merit Scholarship, Romania
1985 2nd Prize in the National Competition for Undergraduates in Analytical Chemistry, Romania


Member of the American Chemical Society

Member of the Society for Biological Inorganic Chemistry


BS, 1988, University of Bucharest, Romania
MS, 1989, University of Bucharest, Romania
PhD, 1998, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
Postdoctoral fellow, 1999–2001, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Professional Experience

Years Position or Degree
2012–present Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
2017–present Expert, Division of Chemistry, National Science Foundation
2013–2014 Program Director, Division of Chemistry, National Science Foundation
2007–2012 Associate Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
2009–present Associate Director, Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology, Carnegie Mellon University
2005–2008 Research Associate in the Section of Minerals, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
2001–2007 Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
1999–2001 Postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Richard H. Holm
Harvard University, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Synthesis and characterization of mixed-valence complexes

Solid-phase synthesis of peptides for Fe-S cluster incorporation

1993–1998 Graduate student with Prof. Eckard Münck
Department of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University

Characterization of novel iron-oxo proteins

Studies of [2Fe-2S] clusters from wild-type and mutants of C. pasteurianum

Theoretical studies of the relation between intra- and intermolecular electron-transfer properties of mixed-valent clusters with Dr. Emile Bominaar.

1991–1993 Research assistant, laboratory of Prof. M. Brezeanu
University of Bucharest, Department of Chemistry

Synthesis and characterization of platinum complexes with potential biological activity

1989–1991 Chemist, Air Pollution Research Laboratory, Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, Bucharest, Romania

Developed methods for analysis of trace elements

Research Projects
Supramolecular Assemblies Containing Transition Metal Ions
Magneto-electronics of Transition-metal Clusters


Group Members

Group Photos

Photos of Our Lab

About Catalina Achim

Employment Opportunities

Outreach: DNAZone

Carnegie Mellon    Department of Chemistry    Center For Nucleic Acids Science And Technology