475972 Designing Functional Self-Assembled Structures Via Complex Colloidal Interactions
Colloidal materials and soft matter in general exist in the forefront, background, and future of our everyday lives. They compose many of the products we interact with and rely on to maintain (or repair) our health, facilitate the harvesting of resources (water, food, energy, etc.), and overall enhance our quality of life. The beauty of soft materials lies in the hierarchical structures that lead to their beneficial properties, which can be tuned by chemically modifying the colloidal building blocks of which they are composed or the medium in which they are suspended. This chemistry-structure-property nexus has been and will continue to be the crux of my research interests. In particular, the fundamental relationships between surface chemistry and colloidal interactions and subsequently between solution structure and colloidal dynamics are challenging and intriguing issues I have explored during my PhD. For example, I have identified protein surface charge heterogeneity as the origin of a hierarchical solution structure resulting in a unique gelation hysteresis behavior. Given the implications of the structure-dynamics-properties relationship for designing materials, I am excited to continue exploring similar physical phenomena. Future applications I am interested in include designing soft materials ranging from biocompatible materials for pharmaceutical formulation and delivery, to functional proppants for enhanced oil recovery, to self-assembled networks for separations or electronic applications. Specifically, I intend to exploit the versatility of colloidal chemistry and shape to study the effect of anisotropy and competing interactions on their microscopic behavior and macroscopic properties. While I have previously used proteins as colloids with anisotropic structure and interactions, recent advances in colloid synthesis now provides boundless opportunities to explore their effects on material properties using a range of chemistries that can be tailored for specific applications.
The methodology I have developed to explore my research interests encompasses modelling, simulation, and a range of experimental techniques. During both my PhD and my current post-doctoral position I have developed viscosity and mass transport models, respectively, and utilized Monte Carlo (MC) and Brownian dynamics (BD) simulations, respectively, in conjunction with rheology, small angle scattering, and dynamics measurements. I believe these three techniques are individually important, yet complimentary, and in my experience yield even more powerful insight if implemented in conjunction. In particular, combining simulation and experiment is necessary to understand the dynamics and material properties of anisotropic colloids, for which no models currently exist. I plan to employ this toolbox of research techniques to explore the self-association behavior of anisotropic colloidal building blocks and identify new material properties to engineer more effective soft matter materials relevant to the pharmaceutical and energy industries.
I have enjoyed tutoring and mentoring others during each phase of my education and believe it has enhanced my own understanding of various subjects. My teaching experience is primarily from tutoring students as a TA, first for engineering math courses while at the University of Virginia and then for a pilot scale distillation experiment for the senior lab course in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, for which I received very good reviews. As a post-doc, I have mentored graduate students in our lab and an undergraduate student on a side project I developed. Also while at MIT, I participated in the Kauffman Teaching Certificate Program, which teaches current best practices in designing courses and implementing active learning techniques in the classroom.
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