Lukas Gerber, Ph.D.


Assistant Professor




San José State University
One Washington Square
San José, CA 95192-0085


  • B.Sc. (Chemical Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
  • M.Sc. (Chemical and Bioengineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
  • Ph.D. (Advisor: Prof. Dr. Wendelin Stark, ETH Zurich, Switzerland)


Academic Appointments

  • Postdoctoral researcher (Bioengineering, Stanford University, USA)
  • Postdoctoral researcher (Materials Science, Harvard University, USA)

Honors and Awards

  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Advanced Postdoc.Mobility-Fellowship.
  • Swiss National Science Foundation: Fellowship for Prospective Researchers.

Teaching Interests

  • Unit Operations II, CHE 160B (Fall 2017)
  • Plant Design, CHE 165A (Fall 2017)

Research and Scholarly Interests

  • Living materials
  • Microfluidics
  • STEM learning tools
  • Nanomaterials

Current Research

  • Living materials
    To take smart materials to the next level, we merged living biological matter (microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria) with passive materials (polymers) in order to directly implement biological reactions and responses in these materials. Inspired by the surface of a Camembert cheese, we decided to mimic mold’s complex responses to environmental stimuli. We therefore suspended microorganisms in artificial habitats sandwiched between a supporting polymeric base layer and a porous cover layer that permits the exchange of gases, nutrients, and secondary metabolites without allowing the fungus to grow out of its confined space. When a glucose-rich solution is added to the material’s top layer, mimicking a food spill, the enclosed organisms grow and consume the food, effectively cleaning the surface. (Gerber, PNAS 2012)  The organisms also interact with their surroundings via metabolites, which can be used to create self-sterilizing surfaces (Gerber, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012), to produce drugs/proteins that can be harvested on the surface, and to feed other microbes within a living material. By merging live microorganisms with classic material sciences, we created responsive systems that exhibit desirable functions on site (e.g. surfaces that actively kill penicillin-susceptible bacteria), establishing a novel paradigm of biotechnological production and sustained long-term release of specific compounds.

Selected Publications

  1. C. Gerber, A. Calasanz-Kaiser, L. Hyman, K. Voitiuk, U. Patil, I.H. Riedel-Kruse. Liquid-handling Lego robots and experiments for STEM education and research, PLoS Biol 15(3): e2001413 (2017).
  2. C. Gerber, S.A. Lee, I.H. Riedel-Kruse. Microfluidic assembly kit based on laser-cut building blocks for education and fast prototyping, Biomicrofluidics, 9(6), 064105 (2015).
  3. T. Lam, K.G. Samuel-Gama, J. Griffin, M. Loeun, L.C. Gerber, Z. Hossain, N.J. Cira, S.A. Lee, I.H. Riedel-Kruse. Device and Programming Abstractions for Spatiotemporal Control of Active Micro-Particle swarms, Lab on a Chip, 17(8) 1442–51 (2017).
  4. C. Gerber, H. Kim, I.H. Riedel-Kruse. Interactive biotechnology: Design rules for integrating living matter into digital games, Digital Games Research Association - Foundations of Digital Games (2016).
  5. C. Gerber, F.M. Koehler, R.N. Grass, W.J. Stark. Incorporation of penicillin-producing fungi into living materials to provide chemically active and antibiotic-releasing surfaces, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 51(45), 11293-11296 (2012).
  6. C. Gerber, F.M. Koehler, R.N. Grass, W.J. Stark. Incorporating microorganisms into polymer layers provides bio-inspired functional living materials, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 109(1), 90–94 (2012).
  7. C. Gerber, N. Moser, N.A. Luechinger, W.J. Stark, R.N. Grass. Phosphate starvation as an antimicrobial strategy: the controllable toxicity of lanthanum oxide nanoparticles, Chem. Commun., 48, 3869–71 (2012).
  8. C. Gerber, D. Mohn, G. Fortunato, M. Astasov-Frauenhoffer, T. Imfeld, T. Waltimo, M. Zehnder, W.J. Stark. Incorporation of reactive silver-tricalcium phosphate nanoparticles into polyamide 6 allows preparation of self-disinfecting fibers, Polym. Eng. Sci., 51(1), 71–77 (2011).