Graduate Fellows and Postdoctoral Associates

Jessica Nash

Project Affiliation: IRG 2

Jessica is a graduate student in Prof. Yara Yingling's lab in Materials Science and Engineering at NC State University. Her research focuses on the interaction of nanoparticles with nucleic acids. Jessica’s work uses atomistic molecular dynamics simulations to study the effect of nanoparticle charge, polarity and size on conformation of DNA and RNA.

Joseph Lamas

Joseph is an Associate in Research, providing intellectual and logistical contributsion for a project centered on stimulus responsive polypeptide hydrogels under the direction of Dr. Nick Carroll and Dr. Stefan Zauscher. Joe comes to us from Texas State University, San Marcos, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Chemistry & BioChemistry. He previously participated in the Research Triangle MRSEC REU program for two years, as well as having attended the International Graduate Research Training Group (IRTG 1524) Summer School "Self-Assembly in Soft Matter Systems", prior to joining Duke. He plans on applying to graduate school at Duke, majoring in Biomedical Engineering, Fall 2016.

Joseph Simon

Project Affiliation: IRG 2

Joseph, a fellow at Duke University in the Lopez laboratory, works on the development of programmable, hierarchically structured particles comprised of genetically engineered polypeptides. He combines recombinant gene synthesis with state-of-the-art droplet microfluidics to create various particle structures that span several length scales in size. Joseph aims to elucidate the underlying physics driving the formation of these particles and utilize these particles for various biotechnological applications.

Kelli Luginbuhl

Kelli received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Colorado State University in 2011. She is now a PhD candidate in Dr. Ashutosh Chikoti's lab at Duke University. She is working on creating biopolymers and proteins that are co- and post-translationally modified with sterols and fatty acids, site-specifically. These novel materials have unique material properties that can be used for a variety of applications including drug encapsulation, surface modification, and biologic half-life improvement.

Koohee Han

Project Affiliation: IRG 1

Koohee is a Ph.D. student in Prof. Velev's group in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. His research is focused on field-driven assembly of anisotropic patchy particles for soft microbotics. He presented a novel approach for assembling metallo-dielectric microcubes into soft robotic components, which may find applications in fields such as microscale manufacturing and active microfluidics. Their potential is illustrated in a preliminary way by making motile, reconfigurable and self-folding chains from patchy microcubes, which possess repeated bending motions when actuated by an external magnetic field. The residual polarization of the metal-coated facets leads to directional forces between the neighboring particles and between the particles and the field. The dipole-dipole and field-dipole interactions lead to dynamic reconfiguration. Depending on the cube-to-cube binding conformations the assembled chains have distinct responses to the external field. In the case of cis-conformation, the junction between two cubes can be actuated reversibly by a pulsating magnetic field, whereas in the trans-conformation cube-to-cube overlap makes the junction rigid and thus restricts the bending of the chain. Consequently, the sequence of cis- and trans conformations in the chain determines how the chain will respond and fold in a field and after it is turned off. On this basis he designs and demonstrates a microbot prototype capable of grabbing and transporting target objects.

Korine Ohiri

Project Affiliation: IRG 1

Korine is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. The aim of her work is to complement current IRG1 research activities by synthesizing and characterizing a new class of monodisperse colloids with tunable magnetic permeability and acoustic contrast factors. The tunable dual responses of these materials will allow for fine control over their manipulation and programmed interactions in the creation of self-assembled colloidal superstructures. Along with allowing new mediums for control in assembly, we seek to explore the phase separation behavior of precursor materials for possible use in engineering anisotropic particles to influence short-range interactions. These magnetic materials will exhibit new phenomena with implications in synthetic colloidal assembly and biological assembly for multiplex sorting and bioseparation systems.

Bioseparations are facilitated by these magnetic colloids that are engineered to preferentially bind to target analytes. By functionalizing these colloids, a variety of biomarkers can be captured in a mircrofluidic system and differentially sorted for flow cytometry or on-chip analysis. Compared to traditional bench top methods, microfluidic analysis affords decreased risk of sample contamination and decreased reagent waste due to the miniaturization of the debulking platform. As a result, efforts have been made to design continuous flow systems that can screen small samples of blood with picomolar sensitivity. 

Kris Wiedenheft

Kris received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in 2015. A PhD student in Dr. Chuan-Hua Chen’s lab at Duke University, he is interested in antidew superhydrophobic structures and self-propelled jumping droplets. His fundamental research has practical applications in phase-change heat transfer and biological self-cleaning materials.

Luis Navarro

Project Affiliation: IRG 2

Luis earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Caltech in 2013. His research interests center on polymeric materials. He is currently  a Ph.D. student in the Zauscher Lab at Duke University. His research focuses on designing bioconjugate materials for surface coatings.

Meredith Barbee

Meredith is a graduate student in the Duke University Chemistry Department working under Stephen Craig. She received her B. S. in Chemistry from Meredith College in 2013. Her research focus is on developing force responsive catalysts to produce an amplified chemical response to mechanical stress experienced by soft materials and devices. She is also interested in developing new mechanisms for stress strengthening and stress sensing applications using force responsive catalysts.

Michael Dzuricky

Project Affiliation: IRG 2

Michael is a biomedical engineering PhD student at Duke University. In Dr. Chilkoti’s lab of bio-inspired materials, Michael is working with a new class of protein polymers that undergo upper critical solution phase transition (UCST) - the rapid onset of aggregation within a narrow temperature range. Utilizing the sequence flexibility and thermo-responsiveness of these constructs, Michael hopes to create smart surfaces, drug delivery vehicles, and novel bulk materials.