Maria M. Santore

Maria M. Santore

Professor of Polymer Science & Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts

Ph.D.: Princeton University
Postdoctoral Training: Polymer Division, National Institute of Standards & Technology

Research Interests

Reversible physical bonds, each comprising a few kT in energy, endow a material with intrinsic dynamic versatility. It is only through restructuring, afforded by reversible interactions, that materials can respond to stimuli and communicate with their environments. This is most evident in living systems, which constantly adapt to and manipulate their surroundings; however, dynamic responsiveness is also key to smart materials, drug delivery systems, and sensing elements. Research in the Santore lab focuses on how forces and dynamics at the molecular and nanometer levels drive behavior at the micron scale of colloidal particles and bacteria, the 10-micron scale of cells, and larger observable length scales. We exploit principles of colloid chemistry and interfacial polymer physics to develop new materials with clever behaviors, taking inspiration from Nature: White blood cells exhibit precise rolling motion signatures on blood vessel walls in response to injury; Metastatic cancer cells prefer to invade some organs but not others; The immune system remembers diseases (and vaccines) of the parent animal for decades, engaging in highly targeted attack of invasive organisms, yet not attacking other cells of the parent animal. Students in the Santore lab create materials that exploit the underlying biophysical principles at work in these and other examples to produce new platforms for drug delivery, sensors, and biomaterials for implants, diagnostics and cell processing (tissue engineering). Current areas of activity within the lab include:

surface design - creating surfaces that mimic the landscape of biological cells
adhesion and bioadhesion dynamics – studying dynamic interactions, including the motion signatures of rolling, slipping, arrest, and dislodging of flowing particles, bacteria, and cells
biomimetic and biological membrances – developing polymer- and phospholipid-based vesicles with engineered adhesive functionality and the capacity to phase separate.