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Christine Keating

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry


Professional Appointments and Affiliations

Shapiro Professor of Chemistry


512 Chemistry Building
University Park, PA 16802


B.S. Saint Francis College of Loretto, PA, 1991

Ph.D. Penn State University, 1997

Honors and Awards

Shapiro Professor of Chemistry, 2021-present

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, 2020-2021

Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal in Life and Health Sciences, 2017

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2014

Beckman Young Investigator Award, Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, 2004- 07

Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, 2005

Unilever Award for Outstanding Young Investigator in Colloid and Surfactant Science, 2004

Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, 2004

NSF New Faculty CAREER Award, 2003-08


The Keating research group has several interdisciplinary research themes in the general areas of physical chemistry, colloid and interface science, biological chemistry and materials.

Self-assembled artificial cells/Cytomimetic chemistry, with an emphasis on experimental model systems for subcellular microcompartmentalization. We study liquid-liquid phase coexistence in aqueous macromolecule solutions, where each phase serves as a distinct microenvironment that can favor reactions such as enzyme cascades, ribozyme reactions, or bioinspired mineralization.

Prebiotic compartmentalization. We are investigating how the accumulation of prebiotic organic molecules by liquid-liquid phase separation, or coacervation, may have impacted the subsequent oligomerization, self-assembly, and activity of those molecules. Areas of interest include ribozyme compartmentalization in complex coacervates formed by mixing oppositely-charged polyelectrolytes, lipid self-assembly in the presence of coacervates, and the impact of environmental conditions on coacervate physical chemistry.

Bioinspired materials synthesis. Here, we are studying the formation and properties of composite inorganic/organic materials in reaction microenvironments that are pre-organized by reagent and catalyst partitioning across several coexisting aqueous phases.

Self- and directed assembly of particles, with an emphasis on bridging top-down and bottom-up fabrication approaches for multicomponent functional structures. Our target structures at present have optical functions ranging from random lasers to metamaterials and are designed to enable reorganization of particles for switchable optical response.


Selected Publications

Phase-specific RNA accumulation and duplex thermodynamics in multiphase coacervate models for membraneless organelles. Choi, S.; Bevilacqua, P. C.; Keating, C. D. Nature Chemistry 2022 (

Lipid membrane formation templated by coacervate droplets. Pir Cakmak, F.; Marianelli, A. M.; Keating, C. D. Langmuir 2021, 37, 10366-10375.

Liquid-Liquid Phase Coexistence and Membraneless Organelles. Volume Editor: C. D. Keating, Methods in Enzymology, Elsevier Inc. 2021. Volume 646.

Particle-based reconfigurable scattering masks for lensless imaging. Miller, J. R.; Wang, C.-Y.; Keating, C. D.; Liu, Z. ACS Nano 2020, 14, 13038-13046.

Prebiotically-relevant low polyion multivalency can improve functionality of membraneless compartments. Pir Cakmak, F.; Choi, S.; Meyer, M. O.; Bevilacqua, P. C.; Keating, C. D. Nature Communications 2020, 11, 5949.

Formation of multi-phase complex coacervates and partitioning of biomolecules within them. Mountain, G. A. and Keating, C. D. Biomacromolecules 2020, 21, 630-640.

Segmentation-dependent dielectrophoretic assembly of multisegment metal/dielectric particles. Famularo, N. R.; Stein, R. S.; Boehm, S. J.; Guo, X.; Mayer, T. S.; Bevan, M. A. Keating, C. D. Journal of Physical Chemistry C 2020, 124, 18755-18769.

Impact of wet-dry cycling on the phase behavior and compartmentalization properties of complex coacervates. Fares, H. M.; Marras, A. E.; Ting, J. M.; Tirrell, M. V.; Keating, C. D. Nature Communications 2020, 11, 5423.

Bioinspired mineralizing microenvironments generated by liquid-liquid phase coexistence. Rowland, A. T.; Cacace, D. N.; Pulati, N.; Gulley, M. L.; Keating, C. D. Chemistry of Materials 2019, 31, 10243-10255.

Controlling disorder by electric field directed reconfiguration of nanowires to tune random lasing. Donahue, P. D.; Zhang, C.; Nye, N. S; Miller, J. R.; Wang, C-Y.; Tang, R.; Christodoulides, D. N.; Keating, C. D.; Liu, Z. ACS Nano 201812, 7343-7351. 

Physical principles and extant Biology reveal roles for RNA-containing membraneless compartments in origins of life chemistry. Poudyal, R.; Pir Cakmak, F.; Keating, C. D.; Bevilacqua, P. C. Biochemistry 201857, 2509-2519.

RNA-based coacervates as a model for membraneless organelles: Formation, properties, and interfacial liposome assembly. Aumiller Jr., W. M.; Pir Cakmak, F.; Davis, B. W.; Keating, C. D. Langmuir 201632, 10042-10053.

Phosphorylation-mediated RNA/peptide complex coacervation: a model for intracellular liquid organelles. Aumiller Jr., W. M. and Keating, C. D. Nature Chemistry 2016, 8, 129-137.