News

October, 2018
UMass Amherst Selected as National Innovation Corps Site

The National Science Foundation has announced that it has selected the University of Massachusetts Amherst to be one of its national network of Innovation Corps Sites (I-Corps). The program is intended to increase research commercialization and campus startups while enriching existing innovation infrastructure. Organizers hope to help new ventures bring economic development and jobs to the region.

Kenneth Carter, professor of polymer science and engineering and a faculty inventor, leads the site as its principal investigator. He says, “This is tremendous news for our students in STEM fields, their faculty advisors, industry partners and our alumni who want to give back to the campus through mentoring and other support. We are extremely excited about it.”

His co-principal investigators are Robert MacWright, director of the campus’s Technology Transfer Office, and Nilanjana Dasgupta, professor of psychological and brain sciences.

Read full article at UMass News Office

October, 2018
Scientists Make New ‘Green’ Electronic Polymer-Based Films with Protein Nanowires

An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has produced a new class of electronic materials that may lead to a “green,” more sustainable future in biomedical and environmental sensing, say research leaders microbiologist Derek Lovley and polymer scientist Todd Emrick.

They say their new work shows it is possible to combine protein nanowires with a polymer to produce a flexible electronic composite material that retains the electrical conductivity and unique sensing capabilities of protein nanowires. Results appear in the journal Small.

Protein nanowires have many advantages over the silicon nanowires and carbon nanotubes in terms of their biocompatibility, stability, and potential to be modified to sense a wide range of biomolecules and chemicals of medical or environmental interest, says Lovley. However, these sensor applications require that the protein nanowires be incorporated into a flexible matrix suitable for manufacturing wearable sensing devices or other types of electronic devices.

Read full article at UMass News Office

October, 2018
UMass Amherst Team Aims to Improve Accuracy in Sequencing Large Genomes

Researchers working to sequence mammalian-sized genomes today rely on nanopore-based methods that are hampered by two significant bottlenecks that limit precision and hinder progress in the field, says theoretical physicist Murugappan Muthukumar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has a four-year, $1.39 million grant from NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute to overcome these hurdles to make way for a new wave of low-cost, rapid, high-quality sequencing technologies.

“Right now, DNA reading accuracy in the nanopore-based method is about 95 percent,” he points out. “We want to improve that.”

With the current method of sequencing DNA, Muthukumar explains, nucleic acid units in a DNA strand pass through a 1.5-nanometer opening, or pore, one at a time where they are read and recorded, “like unwinding a ball of wool and passing it through the eye of a needle,” he says. Except that in the case of DNA waiting to be read, it is not neatly coiled like a ball of yarn, but is jumbled, disordered and influenced by electrical and entropic forces, water currents, temperature and salt ions.

Read full article at UMass News Office

September, 2018
UMass Amherst Scientists Make Polymers Containing Solid Nanoparticles

Two scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are building a new class of environmentally friendly polymer materials (or polymer-based fluids) called complex coacervates that will contain solid nanoparticles. Supported by a three-year, $357,694 grant from the National Science Foundation, they also will uncover and chronicle the design rules for these materials creating a road map for further research in the field.

Sarah L. Perry, chemical engineering, and Maria M. Santore, polymer science and engineering, say coacervates are well known to scientists, but that it is not well known how extensively they can be modified for new uses. They also say there are no systematic and comprehensive rules for building these materials, so they will create these so-called rules of thumb for other researchers to follow.

Perry says coacervates have been around for decades, but there hasn’t been a concentrated effort to discover a wider range of applications. She says scientists tend to create these materials for a specific use but haven’t explored how complex or how sophisticated they can be.

Read full article at UMass News Office

September, 2018
Ross, Hayward Elected Fellows of American Physical Society

The American Physical Society has announced that Jennifer Ross, professor of physics, and Ryan Hayward, professor of polymer science and engineering, were elected fellows of the American Physical Society (APS) by the APS Council of Representatives at its September meeting.

As recommended by its Division of Biological Physics (DBIO) Ross is recognized for “significantly advancing understanding of the self-organizational principles of the microtubule cytoskeleton via motor proteins and severing enzymes and how that organization affects intracellular transport. Also, for outstanding service to DBIO and the biophysics community.”

Hayward is recognized by the division of polymer physics for “developing innovative approaches to control the structure and properties of polymeric materials through processes of elastic buckling and self-assembly.”

Read full article at UMass News Office

July, 2018
Coughlin Named Fellow of American Chemical Society

E. Bryan Coughlin, head of polymer science and engineering, has been selected as a 2018 fellow of the American Chemical Society, which recognizes members for outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession and the society. The honor was announced in the society’s weekly magazine, Chemical & Engineering News.  

Coughlin is credited as a co-inventor of DuPont’s Versipol polyolefin technology platform and noted for his pioneering work in functional polymeric materials. He also served the society’s polymer science and materials engineering division in many leadership roles including chair, vice-chair, past chair, treasurer and membership chair and currently as a member of the finance committee. ACS’s 2018 fellows will be honored at a special ceremony during the national meeting on Aug. 20 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

Read full article at UMass News

July, 2018
Polymer Science and Engineering head recognized for pioneering work with functional materials

E. Bryan Coughlin, head of polymer science and engineering, has been selected as a 2018 fellow of the American Chemical Society(link is external), which recognizes members for outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession and the society. The honor was announced in the society’s weekly magazine, Chemical & Engineering News.  

Coughlin is credited as a co-inventor of DuPont’s Versipol polyolefin technology platform and noted for his pioneering work in functional polymeric materials. He also served the society’s polymer science and materials engineering division in many leadership roles including chair, vice-chair, past chair, treasurer and membership chair and currently as a member of the finance committee. ACS’s 2018 fellows will be honored at a special ceremony during the national meeting on Aug. 20 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. 

There are only about 1,000 ACS fellows among the society’s full membership of more than 157,000. Coughlin says, “I am proud to join my colleagues Todd Emrick who was elected in 2014, Greg Tew and Kenneth Carter who were elected in 2013 and Maria Santore who was elected in 2010.”

Read full article at CNS News

June, 2018
UMass Amherst Polymer Scientists Report Unexpected New Dynamics for Large DNA Molecules in Liquid Suspension

Polymer physicists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are today reporting the unexpected and previously unknown behavior of a charged macromolecule such as DNA embedded in a charged hydrogel, where it displays what they call a “topologically frustrated” inability to move or diffuse in the gel, a phenomenon they describe in the current Nature Communications.

Polymer physicist professor Murugappan “Muthu” Muthukumar, with postdoctoral researcher Di Jia, used light-scattering techniques to study large DNA molecules’ behavior in a geomesh of 96 percent water, where they expected it to move very slowly, but to eventually diffuse as all previously known systems would behave.

Muthukumar explains, “Scientists have known for more than a century that all molecules have Brownian motion, that is they move around and diffuse, including DNA and other very large molecules. How fast they diffuse depends on the molecule, and large ones can be very slow. This is normal and is what we have observed for more than 100 years.”

Read full article at UMass News

June, 2018
Ramasubramaniam Leads Research on 2D Materials for Computing, Optics

Ashwin Ramasubramaniam, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, is leading a joint U.S. and Israeli team of researchers looking for inexpensive, large-scale methods of fabrication of electronic and optical devices within single sheets of two-dimensional (2D) materials. The research is funded by a three-year, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Materials Research.

Two-dimensional materials are crystalline and composed of extremely thin sheets—one or a few atoms in thickness—with the potential to create smaller and faster electronic and optical devices. Existing methods for preparing such devices are not suited to 2D materials, however, so new approaches must be discovered that promote their easy integration into device construction.

“This project studies 2D materials that are coated with polymers, which can be applied with extreme precision to manipulate the physical and electronic properties at specific locations,” the researchers say. “This promotes inexpensive, large-scale fabrication of electronic and optical devices within single sheets of 2D materials, enabling applications in low-power, nanoscale, electronic and optical devices, including wearable and conformable devices.”

Read full article at UMass News

June, 2018
Schiffman
UMass Amherst Research Enhances Shark Skin-Inspired Antibacterial Coatings

 To limit hospital- and clinic-related infections, institutions have been using new materials, such as one commercially available that mimics shark skin, to inhibit microbes’ ability to stick to high-touch areas such as bed rails and door knobs. But given time, bacteria will accumulate, making this method insufficient, say researchers led by polymer scientist James Watkins at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Now in a report available early online today in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, Watkins and chemical engineer Jessica Schiffman, with a team of their graduate students, say they have designed an easily applied coating infused with photocatalytic antimicrobial titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles that decreases microbial attachment and deactivates those bacteria already attached to surfaces.

As they explain, when TiO2 nanoparticles are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, chemical reactions with water and hydroxide molecules form reactive hydroxyl radicals and superoxide ions that rupture the outer membranes of bacteria on contact and lead to cell death. Further, TiO2 nanoparticles are low-cost, widely available and can be incorporated into transparent coatings, unlike more commonly known antimicrobials such as silver and copper. “These advantages make TiO2 an attractive candidate for use in high-touch antimicrobial surface coatings,” they point out.

Read full article at UMass News

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