Dr. Elizabeth S. Sterner

Elizabeth Sterner

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Email: esterner@lvc.edu

Phone: 717-867-6644

Office Location: Neidig-Garber 419

Website: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0512-8236

B.S., Creighton University; M.S., Ph.D., University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Polymer Chemistry, Polymer Science, General Chemistry

Research & Practice Areas:
Polymers are long chain-like molecules made of repeating structural units. Researchers in this group design new repeat units, chain shapes, and processing techniques to add useful functionality to everyday materials. By blending naturally-derived particles into rubber, surgical gloves can be made more puncture resistant and surgical gowning can become antimicrobial. Smart structure design creates impact-resistant polymers that are just as robust as conventional Kevlar, but easier to synthesize and process into body armor. Tailoring chain shape, by going from purely linear to brush polymers, allows for the creation of materials that are all solid-state, super soft, and super tough at the same time. Adding active structures to these brushes add electrical conductivity.

We make materials that display useful and surprising behaviors. I have three main project lines, all of which focus on controlling molecular structure, polymer structure, and polymer processing to achieve new material properties. The first project is working on rubber composites that could be used for puncture-resistant and inherently anti-microbial surgical gloves and gowning. The second project seeks to generate new impact-resistant plastics by engineering the way the polymer chains can vibrate on the molecular level. The third is designing all-solid-state rubbers that are super-soft (easy to stretch) and super-tough (hard to break) at the same time, with an eye toward applications in soft robotics and wearable sensors.


Im., J; Sterner, E. S.; Swager, T. M. “Integrated Gas Sensing System of SWCNT and Cellulose Polymer Concentrator for Benzene, Toluene and Xylenes” Sensors 2016 16 183

Bertani, F.; Riboni, N.; Bianchi, F.; Brancatelli, G.; Sterner, E. S.; Pinalli, R.; Geremia, S.; Swager, T. M.; Dalcanale, E. “Triptycene-Roofed Quinoxaline Cavitands for the Supramolecular Detection of BTEX in Air” Chemistry-A European Journal 2016 22 3312-3319

Li, H.; Rathi, S.; Sterner, E. S.; Zhao, H.; Hsu, S. L.; Theato, P.; Zhang, Y.; Coughlin, E. B. “Synthesis of photocleavable poly(methyl methacrylate-block-D-lactide) via atom-transfer radical polymerization and ring-opening polymerization” Journal of Polymer Science A: Polymer Chemistry 2013 51 4309-4316

Zhao, H.; Gu, W.; Thielke, M. W.; Sterner, E. S.; Tsai, T.; Russell, T. P.; Coughlin, E. B.; Theato, P. “Functionalized nanoporous thin films and fibers from photocleavable block copolymers featuring activated esters” Macromolecules 2013 46 5195-5201

Zhao, H.; Sterner, E. S.; Coughlin, E. B.; Theato, P. “o-Nitrobenzyl alcohol derivatives: Opportunities in polymer and materials science” Macromolecules 2012 45 1723-1736

Zhao, H.; Gu, W.; Sterner, E. S.; Russell, T. P.; Coughlin, E. B.; Theato, P. “Highly ordered nanoporous thin films from photocleavable block copolymers” Macromolecules 2011 44 6433-6440

Sterner, E. S.; Rosol, Z. T.; Gross, E. M.; Gross, S. M. “Thermal analysis and ionic conductivity of ionic liquid containing composites with different crosslinkers” Journal of Applied Polymer Science 2009  114 2963-2970

Sterner, E. S. “Three Ways to Polyamides: the Impact of Polymerization Mechanism on Polymer Properties” Journal of Chemical Education 2019 DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.8b00650



Sterner, E. S.; Swager, T. M. Synfacts monthly contributor from issue 3, 2014 to issue 2, 2015



“Upcycling food waste to create a biodegradable, edible, and preservative bioplastic food coating” J. McBride, E. S. Sterner. Sci-Mix Poster presentation. ACS National Conference in New Orleans, LA. March 2024.

“Digging deeper: using polymer content to enrich and expand an advanced organic chemistry course” E. S. Sterner. Oral presentation in the Symposium on Incorporating Polymer Science in the Classroom. ACS National Conference in New Orleans, LA. March 2024.

Dr. Sterner presented her paper, “Creating crosslinks: Challenges and opportunities as a polymer scientist in a chemistry department,” at the American Chemical Society’s national conference in Indianapolis, Ind., in March 2023. She shared her work during the PMSE symposium: “At the Interface of Education and Research: Highlighting the Contributions of Primarily Undergraduate and Underrepresented Institutions to Soft Matter.”

Ruby Deeter ’23 (ACS chemistry), one of seven student-researchers who attended the conference with Professor Sterner, presented her poster, “Disentangling the effects of intermolecular forces and stereochemistry on impact resistant polymers,” during the PMSE/POLY and Sci-Mix poster sessions. Dr. Sterner supervised her work.