February, 2018
UMass Amherst Polymer Scientist Maria Santore to Discuss Synthetic Systems that Mimic the Behavior of Biological Cells

Maria Santore, professor of polymer science and engineering will present a Distinguished Faculty Lecture titled “From the Surfaces of Cells to Materials Innovation: Synthetic Systems that Mimic the Behaviors of Biological Cells” on Tuesday, March 6 at 4 p.m. in the Great Hall of Old Chapel at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  

When cells contact other cells or foreign objects, their responses can determine an organism’s survival. For example, reactions triggered at the surfaces of white blood cells amplify to produce organism scale behaviors, such as fighting infection or developing immunity.

Synthetic systems from the Santore lab recreate biological mechanisms that start at the surface and become large scale—examples will include materials that selectively scavenge, capture, kill or release targets in response to chemical and mechanical cues; control particle movement on surfaces; and assemble into molecularly thin force-responsive reconfigurable circuitry. These systems may ultimately facilitate biomedical devices, sensors, and protective gear or materials for energy harvesting.

Santore will be presented with the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest recognition bestowed to faculty by the campus, at the conclusion of the lecture. 

The event is free and open to the public and a reception follows the lecture. For information, call 413-577-1101.

The lecture series is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of the Provost.

From the UMass News Office, February 2018

December, 2017
Paving the Way for a Non-Electric Battery to Store Solar Energy

Materials chemists have been trying for years to make a new type of battery that can store solar or other light-sourced energy in chemical bonds rather than electrons, one that will release the energy on demand as heat instead of electricity–addressing the need for long-term, stable, efficient storage of solar power.

Now a group of materials chemists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst led by Dhandapani Venkataramanwith Ph.D. student and first author Seung Pyo Jeong, Ph.D. students Larry Renna, Connor Boyle andothers, report that they have solved one of the major hurdles in the field by developing a polymer-based system. It can yield energy storage density – the amount of energy stored – more than two times higher than previous polymer systems. Details appear in the current issueof Scientific Reports.

Read full article at: UMass News Office

November, 2017
UMass Amherst Researcher Makes New Bioinspired Polymers Using Electrostatic Force

University of Massachusetts Amherst chemical engineer Sarah L. Perry, working with a colleague at the University of Illinois, is creating new bioinspired materials using electrostatic charges to direct the self-assembly process of long molecules. The research team, working with a class of polymers called coacervates, found they could be modified by changing the sequence of charges along the polymer chain. Coacervates are commonly used in food products and cosmetics. The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

Perry and Charles Sing, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, collaborated on the research. They say that long chain molecules called polymers are ubiquitous in biology where the precise sequence of chemical building blocks in the chain, known as monomers, encodes the structure and function of life. Perry and Sing are looking for ways to use this kind of chemical patterning to design new synthetic materials.

Read full article at UMass News Office

October, 2017
LANXESS Urethane Systems will enhance research on next generation materials

The Urethane Systems business unit of specialty chemicals company LANXESS decided to join the Center for UMass/Industry Research on Polymers (CUMIRP) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA, in order to enhance its scientific research on next generation materials. CUMIRP acts as a cross-roads where university research and education meet with industrial partners in polymer materials, engineering and processing to leverage resources and foster collaboration. LANXESS will join Flammability Cluster (Cluster F) and Mechanical Properties & Additive Manufacturing Cluster (Cluster M). This collaboration targets the development of novel urethane materials, it focuses on in-depth understating of structure-property relationships to develop new process methods and new chemistries. The collaboration will come into effect on October 2017.

Read full article at

October, 2017
Crosby, Irschick Co-Direct New UMass Center for Evolutionary Materials

Polymer scientist Al Crosby and functional biologist Duncan Irschick, the inventors of the gecko-inspired adhesive, Geckskin, are co-directors of a new, system-wide UMass Center for Evolutionary Materials. It is intended to be a home for researchers from many fields who are interested in pursuing bio-inspired technologies to create new designs and products to benefit people and the environment.

Irschick explains that he and Crosby, inspired by the scientific and intellectual richness of their own collaboration and the success of Geckskin, want to see a center that will “engage people on a deep level of bio-inspiration, not as a buzz word but as a kind of intellectual playground for unstructured creativity. Such centers can be useful to foster collaborations.”

Read full article at UMass News Office

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