iLunch Talk (Dec 4) Engineering Bio-Inspired Materials

What: Engineering Bio-Inspired Materials

When: Friday December 4, 12 noon – 1:00 pm

Where: Zoom Meeting ID:  868 1226 1972      Password: 847943

Who: Caitlin Howell
Affiliation: Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Maine

Abstract: Over millions of year, nature has developed elegant solutions to a wide variety of problems. Thanks in part to recent advances in materials science, we are now at a point where we can replicate and even improve upon these solutions, using them to solve human problems. In this talk, we will cover ongoing work in my labs dedicated to designing bio-inspired solutions to problems associated with controlling the interactions of biological systems with abiotic surfaces. First, we will cover the ability of the Nepenthes pitcher plant to resist the adhesion of insect feet to its surface and the application of this concept to the development of surfaces that limit or prevent the adhesion of bacteria. Work in our labs has shown that the mechanism of action of these materials is a mobile liquid which acts as physical barrier to microbial adhesion, and that the concept can be easily applied to medical materials such as urinary catheters or hernia meshes to reduce the chance of infection. Next, we will discuss the function of the nanostructured scales on the wings of iridescent butterflies in producing structural color and how this concept can be used together with machine learning to create surfaces that self-report on their level of cleanliness. The use of bio-inspired strategies to solve human problems, particularly those of biological interactions with surfaces, is a new and growing area of investigation with significant potential for creative innovation across the fields of industry and medicine.

Bio: Caitlin Howell is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Maine. She earned her PhD in Physical Chemistry from Heidelberg University, Germany, under the direction of Prof. Michael Grunze and studying the organization and orientation of biological molecules and cells at abiotic surfaces using spectroscopic techniques. She then completed a postdoc as a Technology Development Fellow at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University advised by Joanna Aizenberg, where she designed and tested bio-inspired surfaces for use in industry and medicine and worked toward moving those technologies to market. Her current research focus is on the development of new surface-based strategies for controlling biological systems at interfaces.

Host: School of Computing and Information Science, University of Maine

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