The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Maria Santore


My research group is developing novel material systems that mimic and exploit the dynamic physical mechanisms responsible for the targeted response in biological cells and tissues. We focus on behaviors occurring at the cell surface and focus on science that will facilitate drug delivery, sensor platforms, and devices that selectively capture targeted cells for analytics, cell-based therapies, or diagnostics.

Current Research

In a first project, the Santore lab is examining how curvature in phospholipid membranes, like those of biological cells, produces attractive interactions between phase separated membrane domains and inclusions, representative of phospholipid raft and membrane proteins respectively.  We are showing how the elasticity of the fluid membrane can produce attractions or repulsions between these membrane specials that can stabilize phases that would other aggregate and coalescence, potentially explaining the long life and stability of raft phases, or conversely in different conditions, bring small membrane species close together enabling their interactions relevant to signaling and trafficking.  We are also probing how these interactions can be exploited to pattern thin layers that may in the future form the basis for skin coatings and reconfigurable wearable electronics.


In a second project area, researchers in the Santore lab are probing the interactions between bacteria and surfaces.  While many strategies aim to limit biofilm growth and prevent infection by using molecules and materials that kill bacteria, our research aims to understand specific bacterial response to interfacial chemistry and mechanical interactions that occur on surfaces.  Ongoing studies address how controllable surface interactions influence cell orientation and the extent of cell contact with a surface and how these in turn influence cell growth rates, cell division, and the fates of daughter cells, and ultimately biofilms.  This research will enable strategies to favor the growth of targeted over undesirable bacteria and to control bacterial response to engineer a targeted outcome, for instance the production of beneficial biofilms that themselves prevent the growth of more virulent species.

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Academic Background

  • BS Carnegie Mellon University, 1985
  • PhD Princeton University, 1989
“Rapid Electrostatic Capture of Rod-Shaped Particles on Planar Surfaces: Standing Up to Shear” M.K. Shave, A. Balciunaite, Z. Xu, M.M. Santore*, Langmuir, 35, 13070-13077 (2019). Doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.9b01871
“Surfaces that Adhesively Discriminate Breast Epithelial Cell Lines and Lymphocytes in Buffer and Human Breast Milk” S. Kalasin, E.P., Browne, K.F. Arcaro, and M.M. Santore,* ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 11, 16347-16356 (2019). Doi: 10.1021/acsami.9b03385
“Mechanical Properties and Concentrations of Poly(ethylene glycol) in Hydrogels and Brushes Direct the Surface Transport of Staphylococcus aureus” K.W. Kolewe, S. Kalasin, M.K. Shave, J.D. Schiffman, and M.M. Santore*, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 11, 320-330 (2019). Doi: 10.1021/acsami.8b18302 Awarded ACS Editors’ Choice.
“Nanoscale Functionalized Particles with Rotation-Controlled Capture in Shear Flow” M.K. Shave, S. Kalasin, E. Ying, and M.M. Santore*, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 10, 29058-29068 (2018). Doi: 10.1021/acsami.8b05328
“Adsorbed Polyzwitterion Copolymer Layers Designed for Protein Repellency and Interfacial Retention” S. Kalasin, R.A. Letteri, T. Emrick, and M.M. Santore*, Langmuir 33, 13708-13717 (2017). Doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.7603391
“Tunable Fluorescence Quenching Near the Graphene Aqueous Interface” A.W. Chen, A.L. Briseno, and M.M. Santore*, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 506, 76-82 (2017). doi: 10.1016/j.jcis.2017.07.019
“Evidence for Negative Charge Near Large Area Supported Graphene in Water: A Study of Silica Microsphere Interactions” A.W. Chen, B. Fang, H. Lee, A.L. Briseno, and M.M. Santore*, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 492, 15-24 (2017).
“Selective Adhesive Cell Capture without Molecular Specificity: New Surfaces Exploiting Nanoscopic Polycationic Features as Discrete Adhesive Units” S. Kalasin, E.P. Browne, K.F. Arcaro, and M.M. Santore*, RSC Advances 7(22), 13416-13425 (2017).
Contact Info

Department of Polymer Science and Engineering
Room A417 Conte Research Center
120 Governors Drive
Amherst, MA 01003

(413) 577-1417