Prof. Jennifer Curtis
School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology
Abstract : Engineers and materials scientists tailor interfaces with polymer brushes to control their functional properties. It is not surprising perhaps, then, that biology uses a similar strategy. In this talk, I will describe how living tissues and cells make polymer brush-like structures to manage their interaction with each other and their surroundings. In particular, hyaluronan-rich glycocalyx will be a focus. Then I will demonstrate how we have hijacked the cell’s enzymatic machinery to generate spherical and planar interfaces with hyaluronan polymer brushes that are orders of magnitude thicker than typical brushes (>10 µm ). This unique brush technology provides new opportunities in a range of areas including biomaterials, lubrication, anti-biofilm interfaces, as well as fundamental studies of the glycocalyx and polymer physics.
Bio: Dr. Jennifer Curtis is an Associate Professor in the School of Physics at Georgia Institute of Technology. Jennifer received her B.A. in Physics at Columbia University in 1997, and her PhD in Physics at the University of Chicago in 2002. There her research focused on soft matter physics and optical manipulation. She helped pioneer the development of holographic optical tweezers, a powerful method to generate dynamic optical traps and optical vortices in three dimensions. During her postdoctoral research at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, Jennifer began to study the role of physics in biological systems at the molecular and cell level. During that time she was an Alexander Humboldt Fellow and eventually an independent group leader before she became a faculty member at Georgia Tech in 2007. In 2010 she received an NSF CAREER Award and since 2014 she has been an Editorial Board Member of the Biophysical Journal. At Georgia Tech, she is a co-director of CRĀSI, the Community for Research on Active Surfaces and Interfaces. Her active research interests fall in the area of physics of living systems, biological physics, bioengineering and nanotechnology.