Daniel K. Schwartz

Dan Schwartz
Glenn L. Murphy Endowed Professor • Associate Chair


Ph. D. in Physics, Harvard University (1991)
A.B. summa cum laude in Chemistry and Physics, Harvard University (1984)


  • Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research (2014)
  • ​Elected Fellow of the American Chemical Society (2014)
  • Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in the Division of Condensed Matter Physics (2011)
  • CU-Boulder College of Engineering Faculty Research Award (2010)
  • Boulder Faculty Assembly Award for Excellence in Research (2008)
  • Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (1999)
  • NSF Career Award (1998)
  • Mortarboard Honor Society Salute for Excellence in Teaching (3 times, 1997-1999)
  • Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award (1994)

Selected Publications

  • Jon H. Monserud and Daniel K. Schwartz, “Interfacial Molecular Searching Using Forager Dynamics”, Physical Review Letters116, 098303 (2016); doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.098303
  • James S. Weltz, Daniel K. Schwartz,and Joel L. Kaar, “Surface-Mediated Protein Unfolding as a Search Process for Denaturing Sites”, ACS Nano10, 730-738 (2016); doi:10.1021/acsnano.5b05787
  • Dapeng Wang, Chunlin He, Mark P. Stoykovich, Daniel K. Schwartz, “Nanoscale Topography Influences Polymer Surface Diffusion”, ACS Nano9, 1656–1664 (2015). 
  • Michael J. Skaug, Liang Wang, Yifu Ding, and Daniel K. Schwartz, “Hindered Nanoparticle Diffusion and Void Accessibility in a Three-Dimensional Porous Medium”, ACS Nano9, 2148-2156 (2015)
  • Dapeng Wang, Renfeng Hu, Joshua N. Mabry, Bing Miao, David T. Wu, Kaloian Koynov, and Daniel K. Schwartz, “Scaling of Polymer Dynamics at an Oil-Water Interface in Regimes Dominated by Viscous Drag and Desorption-Mediated Flights”, J. Am. Chem. Soc.; doi:10.1021/jacs.5b07108
  • Jon H. Monserud and Daniel K. Schwartz, “Mechanisms of Surface-Mediated DNA Hybridization”, ACS Nano8, 4488-4499 (2014); doi:10.1021/nn4064874
  • Carolyn A. Schoenbaum, Daniel K. Schwartz, and J. Will Medlin, “Controlling the Surface Environment of Heterogeneous Catalysts Using Self-Assembled Monolayers”, Accounts of Chemical Research47, 1438-1445 (2014)
  • Patrick S. Noonan, Praveena Mohan, Andrew Goodwin, and Daniel K Schwartz, “DNA Hybridization-Mediated Liposome Fusion at the Aqueous-Liquid Crystal Interface”, Advanced Functional Materials24, 3206-3212 (2014)
  • K.R. Kahsar, Daniel K. Schwartz, and J. William Medlin, “Control of Metal Catalyst Selectivity through Specific Non-Covalent Molecular Interactions”, J. Am. Chem. Soc.136, 520-526 (2014)
  • Blake B. Langdon, Mark Kastantin, Robert Walder, and Daniel K. Schwartz, “Interfacial Protein-Protein Associations”, Biomacromolecules15, 66-74 (2014)
  • Sean Yu McLoughlin, Mark Kastantin, Daniel K. Schwartz, and Joel L. Kaar, “Single Molecule Resolution of Protein Structure and Interfacial Dynamics at Biomaterial Surfaces”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.110, 19396-19401 (2013)
  • Michael J. Skaug, Joshua Mabry, Daniel K. Schwartz, “Intermittent Molecular Hopping at the Solid-Liquid Interface”, Physical Review Letters110, 256101 (2013)
  • Patrick S Noonan, Richard H Roberts, Daniel K. Schwartz, “Liquid Crystal Re-orientation Induced by Aptamer Conformational Changes”, J. Am. Chem. Soc.135, 5183-5189 (2013)

Research Interests

Interfacial phenomena, Biomolecules at interfaces, Surface modification via molecular self-assembly, Single-molecule microscopy methods, Nanoscale surface structures.

Biomolecules at Interfaces: 
Biomacromolecules, like proteins and DNA, interact in complex ways at interfaces. We are studying the structural changes that occur when proteins and oligonucleotides adsorb at solid surfaces and at the air/water interface using a combination of single-molecule tracking fluorescence microscopy, interfacial rheology, atomic force microscopy, and infrared spectroscopy. We are particularly interested in understanding how intramolecular structural changes (e.g. protein unfolding) affect intermolecular interactions such as aggregation, surface fouling, and the formation of interfacial gels. This has applications in a number of areas, including the stability of pharmaceutical proteins as well as food colloids.

Polarized microscope imagesBiosensing at Interfaces: 
We are interested in the interactions between surface chemistry and molecular recognition, such as DNA hybridization or protein-ligand binding. The competition between these types of specific interactions and non-specific interfacial adsorption is often the limiting factor in DNA technologies such as microarrays and single-molecule sequencing. Our research aims to develop ways to control non-specific interactions while promoting specific binding. We are also developing ways to use liquid crystals to detect specific molecular interactions at interfaces. Liquid crystalline materials are incredibly sensitive to small changes in the structure and chemistry of interfaces. This sensitivity, combined with the fact that liquid crystals can be used in simple optical displays, makes them very promising as read-out elements for biosensors.

Surface Modification using Self-assembled Monolayers: 
Self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) represent a versatile coating technology with applications in biocompatibility, nanotechnology, biosensors, corrosion resistance, and molecular electronics. We study the growth and structure of SAMs, ultra-thin molecular films adsorbed from solution on solid surfaces, using single molecule fluorescence microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and spectroscopic techniques, in an effort to develop a deeper understanding of monolayer growth so that this technology will become applicable to a wider variety of substrate materials and applications. Technological applications of current interest in our group include self-organized strategies for the creation of nano-patterned surfaces (the fabrication of molecular "dots" and "lines"), chemical modification of metal catalysts to improve selectivity, modification of biomaterials and membranes to control non-specific adsorption, and development of novel surfaces for liquid crystal alignment.

Molecular Organization in Surfactant Monolayers: 
The organization of molecules at fluid/fluid interfaces are directly related to the stability and dynamics of foams and emulsions. These systems are also important models for cell membranes and are of fundamental interest because of their quasi-two dimensional character. We use specialized optical microscopy techniques (fluorescence and Brewster angle microscopy) to study the complicated phase behavior of monolayers at the air/water interface. Our recent work in this area involves the discovery of “linactant” compounds, molecules that preferentially adsorb to two-dimensional phase boundaries in order to reduce the interfacial energy (i.e. the line tension). Such molecules are believed to have an important role in controlling the heterogeneous structure of cell membranes (i.e. lipid rafts).