Designing materials to interact with biological systems presents an interesting challenge because there is often only a very small difference between environments. Even the largest differences like the relative acidity of the cytosol compared to the lysosome are only on the order of hundred-fold changes. We working to design materials that can respond to these subtle changes in a nonlinear fashion with can changes their properties such as size, solubility, or chemical structure. These materials may find use in theraputic and diagnostic medical applications.
We are interested in learning more about how living cells sense and respond to their surroundings. How do cells respond to the shape and chemical nature of their underlying substrata? How do these responses change between cells in isolation and cells acting as a collective unit? Our group uses chemical tools to prepare precisely controlled environments that will help to answer these questions. The lessons learned from this research may reveal new insight into how multicellular organisms develop and help us to understand the rules for how cells sense, interact with, and respond to their material world.