Soft Materials and Interfaces

Soft materials and interfaces research in the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science department focuses on the following areas:

  • Biomaterials and biomedical materials
  • Biorheology
  • Biostealth surfaces
  • Cell membrane and surface engineering
  • Cell rheology
  • Mechanics and biomechanics
  • Mechanical properties of kidney stones
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Biochip engineering
  • Electromagnetism of fluids

Research project examples include nanomechanical fingerprints of UV damage to DNA; understanding the elasticity of fibronectin fibrils measured by single molecule force spectroscopy; evaluation of synthetic phospholipid ultrasound contrast agents; structural and mechanical properties of biopolymers; experimental scanning probe microscopy techniques and computational methods involving molecular dynamics simulations and ab initio quantum mechanical calculations; exploiting atomic force microscopy techniques to develop new ultra-sensitive assays for detecting and examining DNA damage, the process underlying carcinogenesis, and to increase mechanistic understanding of DNA damage and repair processes; forming, coating and encapsulation of solid, liquid and gaseous particles in the colloidal size range; ultrasound-targeted gene delivery and activation; synergistic combination of high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and immunotherapy for cancer treatment; innovations in shock wave lithotripsy (SWL) technology; and mechanics and bioeffects of acoustic cavitation.

Opportunities for Graduate Study

The department offers an M.S./Ph.D. with a study track in materials science and a core in soft materials and interfaces. The course options emphasize theoretical and applied polymer science, biomedical materials, electrochemistry, physical surface chemistry and biochip engineering.

The department also offers a Master of Engineering (MEng) with an emphasis in materials science and engineering. This 30-credit degree program includes course work towards departmental requirements, an area of specialization, business and management fundamentals, and an internship or applied research experience. Students have the flexibility to focus on topics of soft wet materials, nanostructures, and materials science relevant to career preparation for the industrial sector.

Soft Materials and Interfaces Faculty

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Our research deals with experimental and theoretical investigations of small-scale physicochemical hydrodynamics, where transport and interfacial phenomena closely interact with each other. By manipulating surface tension actively and passively, e.g. using electric fields and surface structures, we...
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
The invention of the atomic force microscope (AFM) in 1986 by Binnig, Quate and Gerber (Phys. Rev. Lett. 56, 930) started a revolution in many branches of science by realizing an unprecedented possibility to visualize and manipulate individual molecules under ambient conditions including water,...
Professor with Tenure in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Dr. Needham's research program combines the fields of Materials Science with Colloid and Surface Chemistry focusing on "Biological and other Soft Wet Materials". The program is in the general area of forming, coating and encapsulation of solid, liquid and gaseous particles in the colloidal size...
Fitzpatrick Family University Professor of Engineering
West's research in biomaterials, nanotechnology and tissue engineering involves the synthesis, development, and application of novel biofunctional materials, and the use of biomaterials and engineering approaches to study biological problems.
Sternberg Family Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
Nano-mechanical and nano-tribological characterization (elasticity, friction, adhesion) of materials including organic thin films; self-assembled monolayers, polymeric gels, and cellulosics; Fabrication of polymeric nanostructures by scanning probe lithography; Colloidal probe and atomic force...
Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
Dr Zhao's research is to understand the fundamental mechanics and physics of materials and phenomena emerging on the interface between engineering and biological systems and to design new materials and structures capable of extraordinary functions. He is currently particularly interested in soft...