Strong Showing for Pratt at American Chemical Society Meeting

Stefan Zauscher

Representatives of the Pratt School of Engineering made an impressive showing at the 2006 American Chemical Society (ACS) meetings held in Atlanta from March 26-30. Topics presented by the Pratt group ranged from plasmonic nanoparticles to the effect of glycoproteins on joint friction.

The majority of those in attendance from the Pratt School participated in a symposium centered on the emerging and interdisciplinary field of “bionanostructures and interfaces,” organized by Pratt professor Stefan Zauscher and professor Graham Leggett from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.

Zauscher is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Material Science (MEMS) and a member of the Duke Center for Biologically Inspired Materials and Materials Systems (CBIMMS). The symposium was primarily sponsored by the Army Research Office and the American Chemical Society’s Colloids and Surface Chemistry Division.

“The symposium was focused on progress in the fabrication, properties, and application of bionanostructures and interfaces and brought together an interdisciplinary group of experts that work at the intersection of materials research, nanosciences, and molecular biotechnology,” Zauscher said.

“The program was grouped into 10 themes, to each of which a half-day was devoted. These themes attempted to highlight and to synthesize related fields of research, and to bring together groups of researchers whose interests may be mutually complementary,” Zauscher said. “The principal goal, however, has been to maintain an exceptionally high level of scientific quality throughout, and I believe that the resulting program has genuinely represented the state-of-the-art.”

The symposium, entitled “Biomolecular and Polymeric Nanostructures and Interfaces: Fabrication, Characterization, Function and Applications,” was originally expected to fill two and a half days, Zauscher said. However, interest from researchers around the world was so high that the series ultimately became a week-long event.

“We started out with a list of invitees expecting about 50 percent would accept,” Zauscher said. “But nearly everyone accepted, with very few exceptions. The symposium then received a large number of contributed talks from other researchers,” he said.

For a number of the invited speakers, this marked their first time at the ACS meeting, noted Zauscher, who is a regular participant. “In that sense, the symposium fulfilled one of its purposes, in bringing together communities that otherwise do not necessarily interact,” he said. “The level of enthusiasm was high.”

In fact, the event’s success has led to the suggestion that it become a regular affair, occurring perhaps every other year, Zauscher added.

Work underway in the lab of assistant MEMS professor Anne Lazarides on plasmonic nanoparticles was particularly well-represented, with poster presentations by graduate students Molly Miller, Elizabeth Irish and David Sebba, winner of the colloid division student poster prize, and an oral presentation by Lazarides.

Plasmonics is the study of excitations in tiny metal particles, many of which have frequencies in the visible spectrum, Lazarides explained. Such plasmonic nanoparticles could therefore offer a simple method for monitoring the assembly of nanostructures, such as self-assembled DNA grids. Her lab is focused on systematically characterizing the behavior of such metal nanoparticles and creating complex plasmonic nanostructures with unique and predictable properties.

For additional ACS research highlights featuring the work of Zauscher, Ashutosh Chilkoti and Ben Yellen, see Pratt Research. In other sessions, Pratt’s Piotr Marszalek, also of CBIMMS, presented a talk entitled “Direct detection of the formation of V-amylose helix by single molecule force spectroscopy” and Heileen Hsu-Kim, of the civil and environmental engineering department, presented “Stabilization of aqueous zinc-sulfide clusters by organic ligands.”