Engineering Self-Assembly and Tailored Functionality in Bio-Inspired Materials

ICS 174
ChEMS Seminar

Featuring Szu-Wen Wang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science

The Henry Samueli School of Engineering

University of California, Irvine


Natural protein structures are remarkably precise and can serve as scaffolds upon which new materials can be engineered.  By redesigning architecture and self-assembly behavior at the molecular level, one can customize these biological complexes to yield novel and non-native functional properties.  In our research group, we examine the extent to which biologically-based assemblies can be manipulated using several model systems.  We have shown that by redesigning the interfaces of a caged virus-like protein nanoparticle, we can introduce and modulate pH-dependent assembly behavior and drug loading capabilities which are useful for intracellular drug targeting.  The manipulation of inter-protein interactions can also be applied to the assembly of two-dimensional crystals, and we demonstrate that monolayers of ordered biological molecules can template the formation of inorganic nanoparticle arrays.  Our studies of biological complexes have also included overcoming recalcitrant DNA assembly.  By doing so, we have enabled non-native, site-specific cell interaction sites and chemical attachment sites to be introduced at exact locations and frequencies into the extracellular matrix protein collagen.  Such flexibility in modifying this important biopolymer has not been previously possible, and these results are especially promising for areas such as tissue engineering.  Our investigations reveal the tremendous potential of redesigning self-assembly behavior in natural biological scaffolds for the creation of new biomaterials.

About the Speaker:

Szu-Wen Wang, Ph.D., received a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering were obtained at Stanford University, where she held a prestigious Whitaker Foundation Graduate Fellowship.  Her industrial experience includes research scientist positions at The Liposome Company and TransForm Pharmaceuticals, both of which are biotechnology companies that specialize in drug delivery and formulations.  Currently, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering at UC Irvine.  Her areas of research include biomimetic materials, drug delivery, and protein self-assembly.