Caitlin Howell


  • Ph.D., University of Heidelberg, 2011
  • Postdoc, Harvard University, 2015


Inspired by Nature, our group works to understand and ultimately control biological systems through surface interactions and other environmental factors. Over the millennia, organisms such as sharks and pitcher plants have developed methods to keep their surfaces clean or perform specific functions such as trapping insects. Following this example, we look to guide the interactions of biomolecules, micro-organisms, and cells using nontoxic, non-invasive surface-based methods to accomplish specific goals. Our work can be applied to medicine, where we reduce clot formation or the onset of infection; to industry, where we mitigate fouling and clogging of pipes and membranes; and to the home, where we create self-cleaning materials which can continue to function over extended periods of time. Through the development of these technologies, we also strive to understand the basic science behind biological surface interactions to provide a basis for future technologies and applications.

Research Interests

Biointerfaces, Bio-Inspired Technology Development, Bacterial and Fungal Biofilm Formation and Control, Biomolecular Surface Interactions, Mammalian Cell Surface Interactions, Bio-inspired materials, Liquid-infused surfaces, Materials-based infection control, Materials for human space exploration

The Howell Biointerface and Biomimetics Lab

Selected Publications

In Press

  • Sotiri I, Overton J, Waterhouse A, Howell C (2016) Immobilized liquid layers: a new approach to anti-adhesion surfaces for medical applications. Invited mini review in Experimental Biology and Medicine. In Press. DOI: 10.1177/1535370216640942

Additional Publications

  • Tesler A, Kim P, Kolle S, Howell C, Ahanotu O, Aizenberg J (2015) Extremely durable biofouling-resistant metallic surfaces based on electrodeposited nanoporous tungstate films on steel. Nature Communications, 6, 8649-1-10.
  • Howell C, Vu T, Johnson C, Hou X, Ahanotu O, Alvarenga J, Leslie D, Uzun O, Waterhouse A, Kim P, Super M, Aizenberg M, Ingber D, Aizenberg J (2015) Stability of Surface-Immobilized Lubricant Interfaces Under Flow. Chemistry of Materials, 27, 1792-1800.
  • MacCallum N, Howell C, Kim P, Sun D, Friedlander R, Ranisau J, O. Ahanotu, Lin J, Hatton B, Wong T-S, Aizenberg J (2015), Oil-infused silicone tubing as a biofouling-free medical material. ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering, 1, 43-51.
  • Howell C, Vu T, Lin J, Kolle S, Juthani N,Watson E, Weaver J, Alvarenga J, Aizenberg J (2014). Self-replenishing vascularized fouling-release surfaces. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, 6, 13299-13307.
  • Sunny S, Vogel N, Howell C, Vu T, Aizenberg J (2014), Lubricant-Infused Nanoparticulate Coatings Assembled by Layer-by-Layer Deposition. Advanced Functional Materials, 24,6658-6667.
  • Leslie D, Waterhouse A, Berthet J, Valentin T, Watters A, Jain A, Kim P, Hatton B, Nedder A, Mullen K, Super E, Howell C, Johnson C, Vu T, Rifai S, Hansen A, Aizenberg M, Super M, Aizenberg J, Ingber D (2014). A Bioinspired Surface Coating for Medical Devices that Prevents Thrombosis and Biofouling. Nature Biotechnology, 32, 1134-1140.
  • Howell C, Hamoudi H, Koelsch P, Zharnikov M (2013). Thymine/adenine diblocks-oligonucleotide monolayers and hybrid brushes on gold: a spectroscopic study. Biointerphases 8, 6.
  • Hastrup A, Howell C, Larsen F, Goodell B, Jellison J (2012). Differences in modification of crystalline cellulose due to degradation by brown and white rot fungi. Fungal Biology, 116, 1052-1063.
  • Howell C, Jeyachandran Y, Koelsch P, Zharnikov M (2012). Orientation and ordering in sequence- and length- mismatched surface-bound DNA hybrids. Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 116, 11133-11140.
  • Bruns M, Barth C, Bruener P, Engin S, Grehl T, Howell C, Koelsch P, Mack P, Nagel P, Trouillet V, Wedlich D, White R (2012). Structure and chemical composition of mixed benzylguanine- and methoxy-terminated self-assembled monolayers for immobilization of biomolecules. Surface and Interface Analysis 44, 909-913.
  • Howell C, Hamoudi H, Koelsch P, Zharnikov M (2011). Orientation changes in surface-bound hybridized DNA undergoing preparation for ex situ spectroscopic measurements. Chemical Physics Letters 513, 267-270.
  • Howell C, Zhao J, Koelsch P, Zharnikov M (2011). Hybridization in ssDNA films- a multi-technique spectroscopy study. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 13, 15512-15522.
  • Howell C, Hastrup A, Jara R, Larsen F, Goodell B, Jellison J (2011). Changes in wood crystalline cellulose structure caused by hot-water extraction and brown-rot decay. Cellulose 18, 1179-1190.
  • Schreiner S, Hatch A, Shudy D, Howard D, Howell C, Zhao J, Koelsch P, Zharnikov M, Petrovykh D, Opdahl A (2011). Impact of DNA-surface interactions on the stability of DNA hybrids. Analytical Chemistry 83, 4288-4295.
  • Hastrup A, Howell C, Jensen B, Green F (2011). Non-enzymatic depolymerization of cotton cellulose by fungal mimicking metabolites. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation 65, 553–559.
  • Howell C, Maul R, Wenzel W, Koelsch P (2010). Interactions of hydrophobic and hydrophilic self-assembled monolayers with water as probed by sum-frequency-generation spectroscopy. Chemical Physics Letters 494, 193–197.
  • Diesner M, Howell C, Kurz V, Verreault D, Koelsch P (2010). In vitro characterization of surface properties through living cells. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 1, 2339–2342.
  • Verreault D, Kurz V, Howell C, Koelsch P (2010). Measuring cells for probing solid/liquid interfaces with broadband sum-frequency-generation spectroscopy. Review of Scientific Instruments 81, 063111.
  • Howell C, Paredes J, Jellison J (2009). Decay resistance properties of hot water extracted oriented strandboard. Wood and Fiber Science 41, 201–208.
  • Paredes J, Mills R, Howell C, Shaler S, Gardner D, van Heiningen A (2009). Surface characterization of Red Maple strands after hot water extraction. Wood and Fiber Science 41, 38–50.
  • Howell C, Hastrup A, Goodell B, Jellison J (2009). Temporal changes in wood crystalline cellulose during degradation by brown rot fungi. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation 63, 414–419.
  • Howell C, Diesner M, Grunze M, Koelsch P (2008). Probing the extracellular matrix with sum-frequency-generation spectroscopy. Langmuir 24, 13819–13821.
  • Howell C, Schmidt R, Kurz V, Koelsch P (2008). Sum-frequency-generation spectroscopy of DNA films in air and aqueous environments. Biointerphases 3, FC47–FC51.

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Dr. Howell currently serves as a chemistry ambassador for the American Chemical Society and is a Visiting Scholar at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University.

Do you have any current GSBSE students? If so, who is in your lab currently?

Junie Fong, Liza White

If you have had GSBSE students who have graduated, can you share names and tell us what they are doing now?

Daniel Regan, PhD. Fellow at the Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons

Dissertation Students

Dan Regan