Nature-Inspired Materials Design

Nature-Inspired Materials Design

Sarah Perry, Ph.D.
UMass Amherst
Wed, 2/24/2016 - 4:00pm

221 Integrated Sciences Building

The diversity and complexity of both structure and function in biological macromolecules is driven by precisely balanced interactions. Charge-driven interactions are particularly key in biological systems, affecting not only protein folding, but also the formation of larger molecular assemblies and even the formation of intracellular organelles. Non-specific electrostatic interactions between proteins may also play an important role in modulating protein stability and activity, but a detailed understanding of these effects is still lacking.
Polyelectrolyte complexation provides an ideal platform to study the self-assembly of a wide range of soft materials ranging from dehydrated thin film and bulk solids to dense, polymer-rich liquid complex coacervates, and more complex hierarchical structures such as micelles and hydrogels. Factors that affect the self-assembly of these materials include the ratio of polycation to polyanion, temperature, pH, salt concentration, stereochemistry, polymer architecture, and the density and/or patterning of charges present. Among these factors, the ability to pattern charges and other chemical functionalities represents a powerful strategy for the design and manipulation of material properties. We use polypeptide-based materials as a model platform for understanding the self-assembly of charged biological molecules, and apply this strategy to understanding how the material environment affects protein stability. Ultimately, the goal of our investigation is to elucidate design rules that facilitate the tailored creation of materials based on polyelectrolyte complexation with defined properties for a wide range of applications, including stabilized vaccines and therapeutics.

Notes: 

Refreshments at 3:45pm

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