An important challenge in many applications ranging from biomedical devices to ship hulls is the prevention of nonspecific biomolecule and microorganism attachment onto surfaces. This attachment can be prevented by using a "nonfouling" surface. Our goals are to provide a fundamental understanding of molecular-level nonfouling mechanisms and to develop biocompatible and environmentally benign nonfouling materials using molecular principles learned.
Over the last 10-12 years, we have demonstrated that zwitterionic materials have many unique properties when compared to their commonly used poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) counterparts. They demonstrate ultra-low fouling in complex media, are able to switch their charge, and are functionalizable, superhydrophilic, and biomimetic. Zwitterionic materials have been shown to prevent the formation of a collagenous capsule when implanted, prolong the circulation time of nanoparticles used for drug/gene delivery and diagnostics, preserve protein bioactivity and cell viability, and enable long-lasting, nonfouling marine coatings. Today, these zwitterionic materials are being used for a broad range of medical and engineering applications.
We take a unique holistic approach to our research by performing both simulations and experiments. Novel materials are designed, synthesized, tested and improved upon all within our group. This collaborative approach allows us to always strive towards understanding nature at all levels. Creative ideas and innovative technologies are always our emphasis.
Our group is a diverse mix with people from New York to Beijing and in between. We are engineers, chemists, biologists, and simulators. About one third of our group focuses on studying a diverse range of problems and designing new materials. The next third focuses on synthesizing and characterizing new polymers and other molecules. The last third focuses on biological studies of these materials.