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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Rachel C. Steinhardt

Rachel Steinhardt portrait

Assistant Professor



3-008 Center for Science and Technology


Research Interests

Organic Synthesis, Soft Materials, Medicinal Chemistry, Chemical Biology


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

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


CHE 600: Chemical Biology

CHE 414/614: Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry

Research Focus

The Steinhardt lab focuses on synthesizing chemical tools to elucidate, manipulate, and image the interactions between organ systems–such as the nervous and immune systems–to pioneer new medical treatment strategies. Using technology like synthetically-tuned natural products, smart biocompatible polymers, and luminescent soft materials, we work to bridge the gap between molecular understanding of cellular function and mechanistic understanding of how individual organs work together to create a living being. This research relies on fundamental studies of physical organic, synthetic, and materials chemistry, and applies that knowledge to manipulating cells and tissues to fix disordered interactions that occur in disease.


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.