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Daniel Levin

Daniel Levin

2023 Davidson Fellow
$25,000 Scholarship

Age: 18
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Engineering: “Controlling Vancomycin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus with Electroactive Bacterial Cellulose-Carbon Nanotube Composites

About Daniel

Hello! I’m Daniel, a brother to two sisters, scientist, house plant enthusiast, and human rights activist. Beyond the lab, I enjoy biking, kayaking, and skiing. I also actively give back to my community by stewarding gardens and volunteering with local organizations striving for social justice.

I aspire to pursue an MD/PhD, which would enable me to delve deep into unraveling the mechanisms behind microbial pathogenesis and advancing treatments for infectious diseases.

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"Being named a Davidson Fellow fills me with an overwhelming sense of honor and gratitude. It’s truly humbling to receive this recognition and be counted among such remarkable peers."

Project Description

I bridged the fields of electrical engineering, material science, and microbiology to develop conductive and customizable bandages out of a microbial-based material. The bandages deliver imperceptible electric currents, driving chemical reactions that are harmful to deadly pathogens but safe for humans. My findings offer a new approach to combat antibiotic-resistant infections, which are rapidly becoming one of the greatest threats to global health.

Deeper Dive

Bacteria are vital for human life, yet in thirty years they are expected to kill more people than cancer. They swap nutrients and genes like trading cards and use enigmatic chemical languages to neutralize our current therapeutics. Like sticky rice, they glob together and form biofilms. This strategic formation captivates me because it enables bacteria to become hyper-cooperative and endure extreme conditions. My passion for the dynamic relationship between bacteria and humans led me to a chemical engineering lab where I used bacteria’s ingenious creations against them. I transformed biofilms from benign bacteria into bandages that block pathogenic bacteria from forming their own, effectively closing off a gateway for systemic infection.

During the course of this project, I encountered difficulties in incorporating a vital element for the bandages’ effectiveness—carbon nanotubes (CNTs). CNTs are essentially a one-atom-thick layer of pencil lead that is rolled up like sushi. Unlike sushi, CNTs have a unique combination of flexibility and conductivity that make them an ideal weapon in the battle against drug-resistant microbes. Trying to cram CNTs into the minuscule pores of the bandage material was like maneuvering furniture into an apartment with cramped hallways and low door frames. After months of trial, error, and discussion at lab meetings, I witnessed a deep black sample emerge from processing—the moment when the CNTs found their new home within the bandages! In my experience, embracing failure with an open mind set the stage for innovation.

My work centers on addressing the pressing issue of drug-resistant S. aureus, the leading cause of skin infections in the United States. S. aureus can colonize wounds and stop the healing process. Swift resolution of these infections is critical to prevent S. aureus from spreading and causing life-threatening illness. Conventional wound care methods can be time-consuming, prone to re-infection, and require frequent visits to wound clinics for debridement. The bandages I developed eradicate bacterial barriers to wound closure after a single hour of treatment and could simultaneously stimulate electrically responsive skin cells to migrate along charge gradients. By accelerating healing and reducing reliance on repetitive treatments, the engineered bandages improve quality of life, promoting efficient healing and progress without prolonged suffering.


If you could magically become fluent in any language, what would it be?

Sign Language

Do you have any pets? What are their names?

I have a cat named Dishes and a Dog named Bella.

What is your favorite tradition or holiday?


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In The News

Pittsburgh – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2023 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 18-year-old Daniel Levin of Pittsburgh. Levin won a $25,000 scholarship for his project, Controlling Vancomycin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus with Electroactive Bacterial Cellulose-Carbon Nanotube Composites. He is one of only 21 students across the country to be recognized as a 2023 scholarship winner.

Download the full press release here