We study the statistical mechanics of soft matter: colloids, lipid-bilayer vesicles, emulsions, nanoparticle suspensions and other squishy things. Our experiments probe the relationships among inter-particle forces, structure, and dynamics of many-bodied systems -- relationships that are central to research in condensed-matter physics. We also apply this fundamental understanding to develop materials at the nanometer scale. Self-assembled materials have truly unique mechanical, optical and electronic properties with applications in nanotechnology and biomedical engineering.
We focus on the behavior of nanoparticles and proteins on fluid interfaces, including lipid bilayer membranes and interfaces between immiscible fluids (such as on the surfaces of oil droplets in water). In both of these systems, bound particles or proteins can deform the interface, which can lead to attraction or repulsion between the particles or proteins. In the context of lipid membranes, we study the binding of proteins in the BAR family, which are part of the endocytic pathway; we seek to understand how the shape, composition, and tension of the lipid membrane modify the protein binding and in-plane assembly and thereby control function. Related experiments probe binding, in-plane assembly, and trans-migration of nanoparticles through membranes with the goal of developing new responsive materials. In the context of fluid-fluid interfaces, we study the binding and assembly of nanoparticles with the goal of developing new materials with applications ranging from oil-spill clean-up to printing of low-cost analytical chemical devices.
Learn more at people.umass.edu/dinsmore/
- PhD University of Pennsylvania (1997)