News

September, 2017
Emrick to Take Part in New Chemical Innovation Center

Todd Emrick, polymer science and engineering, with colleagues at three other universities, has been awarded a three-year, $1.8 million grant to support a multi-university Center for Chemo-mechanical Assembly from the National Science Foundation as part of its Center for Chemical Innovation program.

The science of the center is based on fluid flow and the use of flow fields to direct motion of objects such as particles and capsules. The investigators say, “Much as a river current carries a pebble, fluid flows can carry particulates such as nanoparticles and microcapsules. While mechanical pumps are conventionally used to drive fluid flow, chemical ‘pumps’ can also propel fluid by using chemical reaction networks to create gradients in chemical concentrations and fluid densities.” 

Read full article at UMass News Office

August, 2017
UMass Amherst Chemists ‘Shrink Wrap’ Proteins for Delivery Inside Cell

Delivering proteins inside cells is a promising, fast-emerging field with potential uses in basic cell biology and therapeutics, say chemist Sankaran “Thai” Thayumanavan and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Now they have developed a new method of “shrink wrapping” bioactive proteins in a polymer coating that retains their shape and function, then dissolves away after the protein is delivered inside.

As Thayumanavan explains, many human diseases are due to a protein deficiency and patients would benefit from receiving the molecule they lack. But many proteins cannot be kept intact and will not be effective if delivered outside the target cell. “We could treat many disorders much more effectively if we had a way to get the specific protein delivered intact, inside the cell,” he says. “That’s what we set out to do.”  Details appear now in the online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, JACS.

Read full article at UMass News Office

May, 2017
Off-the-Shelf, Power-Generating Clothes Are Almost Here UMass Amherst scientists introduce coating that turns fabrics into circuits

 A lightweight, comfortable jacket that can generate the power to light up a jogger at night may sound futuristic, but materials scientist Trisha Andrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst could make one today. In a new paper this month, she and colleagues outline how they have invented a way to apply breathable, pliable, metal-free electrodes to fabric and off-the-shelf clothing so it feels good to the touch and also transports enough electricity to power small electronics.

She says, “Our lab works on textile electronics. We aim to build up the materials science so you can give us any garment you want, any fabric, any weave type, and turn it into a conductor. Such conducting textiles can then be built up into sophisticated electronics. One such application is to harvest body motion energy and convert it into electricity in such a way that every time you move, it generates power.” Powering advanced fabrics that can monitor health data remotely are important to the military and increasingly valued by the health care industry, she notes.

Read full article at UMass News Office

March, 2017
UMass Amherst Polymer Scientist Wins International Research Award

Polymer scientist Alfred Crosby at UMass Amherst is part of a team that recently received a highly competitive three-year, $1 million grant from the France-based Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), which supports teams of scientists from different countries.

Crosby and two others will each receive $350,000 over the three years to explore “universal surface patterning mechanisms in plants and animals,” which refers to how the development and growth of tall and narrow nanoscale wrinkles in plants and animals may be related for all living organisms.

Crosby will collaborate with plant scientist and team leader Beverley Glover at the University of Cambridge, U.K., and evolutionary and developmental biologist Michel Milinkovitch of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, an expert in mechanisms underlying life’s complexity and diversity. Together they will experimentally study the roles of materials properties and other factors on the growth of wrinkle patterns in both plants and animals.

​Read Full Story at: UMass Amherst News & Media

February, 2017
UMass Amherst Research May Lead to Non-Surgical Cataract Treatment

The University of Massachusetts Amherst recently licensed a new technology to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. that holds promise of revolutionizing the treatment of cataracts and presbyopia, based on early phase discoveries by polymer physicist Murugappan Muthukumar and former graduate student Ben Mohr regarding the fundamental science of proteins in the lens of the human eye.

Muthukumar, the Wilmer D. Barrett Distinguished Professor in Polymer Science and Engineering, has a lifelong interest in understanding vision, the human eye and specifically the lens and how it functions. As he explains, the human lens is “a collection of proteins, of biopolymers, and one of my research areas is how light passes through the lens and how proteins and biopolymers in it scatter light. Characterizing light-scattering is a classic problem in polymer physics.”

​Read Full Story at: UMass Amherst News & Media

January, 2017
Understanding Cavitation Damage in Soft Tissues and Gels

UMass Amherst leads research on how to turn damaging force to helpful new uses

One of the least-studied factors in traumatic brain damage and other soft-tissue injuries is the focus of a new, four-year, $2.6 million grant from the Office of Naval Research. A team led by polymer scientist Alfred Crosby at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with others at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, San Diego, will study cavitation, the sudden expansion of bubbles in a material.

As Crosby explains, the creation and collapse of bubbles in liquids is well known and has been studied extensively for the past century. When cavitation bubbles collapse, they force liquid into a smaller area, causing a pressure wave and increased temperature. In a pump, for example, cavitation can cause wear and erode metal parts over time. Cavitation inside artificial heart valves can damage not only the parts but the blood. Microcavitation in the brain as a result of high-impact blows or being near an explosion is suspected as a factor in brain injury.

Read Full Story at: UMass Amherst News & Media

December, 2016
Seven UMass Amherst Researchers Named among ‘World’s Leading Scientific Minds,’ Survey Says

Once again, seven University of Massachusetts Amherst faculty members are among “the world’s leading scientific minds,” whose publications are among the most influential in their fields, according to a survey by leading multinational media and information firm Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters compilers who set out to identify “some of the best and brightest scientific minds of our time” recently recognized UMass Amherst food scientists Eric Decker and David Julian McClements, polymer scientist Thomas Russell, soil chemist Baoshan Xing of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, biostatistician and epidemiologist Susan Hankinson of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, microbiologist Derek Lovley and astronomer Mauro Giavaliso in its recent Highly Cited Researchers 2016 list.

Read Full Story at: UMass Amherst News & Media

November, 2016
New Synthetic ‘Nanoparticle Taxicab’ Materials Can Identify, Collect and Transport Debris on Surfaces

Inspired by proteins that can recognize dangerous microbes and debris, then engulf such material to get rid of it, polymer scientists led by Todd Emrick at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed new polymer-stabilized droplet carriers that can identify and encapsulate nanoparticles for transport in a cell, a kind of “pick up and drop off” service that represents the first successful translation of this biological process in a materials context.

As Emrick explains, “These carriers act as nanoparticle taxicabs. They find particles on one surface, recognize their composition, pick them up and drop them off later on another surface. The work is inspired by the very sophisticated biological/biochemical machinery operating in vivo, found for example in the case of osteoclasts and osteoblasts that work to balance bone density through deposition and depletion of material. We replicated this with much simpler components: oil, water and polyolefins.” Details are now online in Science Advances.

Read Full Story at: UMass Amherst News & Media

November, 2016
Cluster V: Evolutionary Materials Fall Newsletter

Cluster V continues to flourish!  Thanks to the growing support of CUMIRP members, Cluster V continues to grow! This year we not only continue to explore ongoing projects but also are able to fund three new bioinspired seed research projects, host monthly research presentation lunches to encourage multi-directional interactions between interdisciplinary researchers and industry partners, and continue to grow BioInspire! The outreach program piloted last winter with forty 5th graders, has been invited for presentation at the upcoming National Art Education Association conference.

Read more in this newsletter and as always feel free to contact us with any questions or comments—we love hearing from you!

Cluster V Newsletter

November, 2016
Changing Views of Evolutionary Factors at Work on Earliest Mammals

UMass Amherst researchers offer new analysis of evolution and biomechanics​

Using 3D-printed replicas of 200-million-year-old mammal teeth and polymers that mimic insect prey, scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst this week provide the first laboratory-tested evidence that the ability for teeth to damage prey is a more significant factor driving evolutionary changes in tooth shape than either bite force or the animal’s energy expenditure.

This unexpected finding should change the way biologists view natural selection as it is studied through dental morphology, the authors say. Tooth shape is linked to diet and the biomechanics of feeding, and much of what is known about early mammalian evolution comes from their fossilized teeth, they point out. Details appear in the current online edition of the British Royal Society journal, Interface.

Evolutionary biology doctoral student Andrew John Conith and his advisor Elizabeth Dumont, with polymer scientists Alfred Crosby and graduate student Michael Imburgia, wanted to better understand how tooth shape influenced diet in early mammals. Dumont and Crosby are both members of the Center for Evolutionary Materials at UMass Amherst, where researchers apply biological thinking to engineering problems.

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