- Advisor: Javier Read de Alaniz
- Department: Chemistry and Biochemistry
- Campus: UCSB
- BioPACIFIC MIP Research: SET 4 - Degradation-optimized Materials
What is your research focus?
My research is focused on leveraging the degradability of lipoic acid (LA)-based polymers for novel degradable devices with applications in environment-friendly reusable adhesives, micelles, and beyond. LA is a monomer containing a 1,2-dithiolane ring and a pendant carboxylic acid that can be functionalized pre- or post- polymerization. LA and its adducts have been found to copolymerize into well-defined structures via RAFT, incorporating disulfide bonds in the polymer backbone, which can be reversibly degraded and then repolymerized. This reversible degradability of LA-based polymers, coupled with the modifiability of LA, allows for the creation of degradable materials of varied properties. The applications of LA-based polymers can further be expanded by adding on-demand assembly or disassembly to effect changes in structure and viscoelastic properties. This can be done by incorporating Donor-Acceptor Stenhouse Adducts (DASAs) into LA-based polymers. DASAs are photoswitches which change their structure, polarity, and free volume when irradiated with visible to near-IR light, in contrast to other photoswitches which respond to potentially-destructive UV light. This property has led to explorations of their use in micelles for drug delivery and photoactuators. Combining DASAs and LAs in polymers could thus result in degradable materials with highly-tunable properties and controlled ordering-disordering. Since LA is a cheap and biocompatible monomer, and DASA syntheses involve the use of bioderived furfural, materials syntheses involving LA and DASA have the potential to not only be sustainable but also highly scalable. My work thus overlaps with SET 4 of BioPACIFIC MIP.
What excites you about NSF BioPACIFIC MIP?
I am interested in networking with a community of people who do research in the intersection of degradable and dynamic polymers for the sharing of ideas and possible collaboration. Ultimately, I want to be a leader in doing research in industry for sustainable materials to address the problem of plastic pollution. I am a first-year Ph.D. student, starting my career and needing direction and mentoring to help me achieve my career goals, so that I can become capable and ready to enter industry. As the BioPACIFIC MIP Fellows program provides opportunities for close collaboration with experts in the field, as well as travel grants for conferences and professional development, I believe that participating in this program would equip me with the core competencies needed to take my career forward. Additionally, the BioPACIFIC MIP offers automated synthesis platforms and x-ray characterization facilities that are well-suited for high-throughput materials synthesis and screening for properties, which would greatly benefit my research.