Stefan Zauscher

Professor in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

My research lies at the intersection of surface and colloid science, polymer materials engineering, and biointerface science, with four central areas of focus: 1. Fabrication, manipulation and characterization of stimulus-responsive biomolecular and bio-inspired polymeric nanostructures on surfaces; 2. Nanotechnology of soft-wet materials and hybrid biological/non-biological microdevices; 3. Receptor-ligand interactions relevant to the diagnostics of infectious diseases; 4. Friction of soft-wet materials, specifically the role of glycoproteins on friction in diarthroidal joints. These four broad lines of inquiry deal with fundamental behaviors of soft-wet materials on surfaces and interfaces. The design and fabrication of these interfaces using "smart" polymeric and biomolecular nanostructures, and the characterization of the resulting structures, are critically important for the development of biomolecular sensors and devices and for bioinspired materials. Key approaches and tools I use in my research are: bottom-up organization on the molecular scale, through self-assembly, in-situ polymerization, and manipulation of intermolecular interactions; topdown fabrication, through scanning probe nanolithography; stimulus-responsive polymers; molecular recognition; and new approaches to sensing and manipulation. This research supports Duke's Pratt School of Engineering strategic initiative to expand research in soft-wet Materials Science.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
  • Associate Chair in Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
  • Bass Fellow
  • Director of the Duke Materials Initiative
  • Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 3385 Fciemas Building, Box 90300, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: +1 919 660 5360
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • M.S. Oregon State University, 1992
  • Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1999

Research Interests

Nano-mechanical and nano-tribological characterization (elasticity, friction, adhesion) of materials including organic thin films; self-assembled monolayers, polymeric gels, and cellulosics; Fabrication of polymeric nanostructures by scanning probe lithography; Colloidal probe and atomic force microscopy; Single molecule force spectroscopy applied to ligand-receptor binding; Biomolecular nano- and micro-sensors

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Fellow. American Vacuum Society (AVS). 2020
  • Dean of the Graduate School Award for Inclusive Excellence in Graduate Education. Duke University. 2016
  • Chair. 5th Gordon Research Conference in Biointerface Science. 2014
  • Marion and Capers McDonald Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research. Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering. 2012
  • ICCES Young Investigator Award. International Center for Computational Engineering Sciences. 2008
  • Bronze Award for Scientific Achievement. 26th Army Science Conference, U.S. Army Research. 2008
  • Young Investigator Award. American Academy of Nanomedicine. 2005
  • Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. National Science Foundation. 2003
  • Early CAREER Award. National Science Foundation. 2003
  • Faculty Enhancement Award. Oak Ridge Associated Universities. 2001

Courses Taught

  • MSEG 591: Independent Study
  • ME 758S: Curricular Practical Training
  • ME 592: Research Independent Study in Mechanical Engineering or Material Science
  • ME 555: Advanced Topics in Mechanical Engineering
  • ME 514: Theoretical and Applied Polymer Science (GE, BB)
  • ME 490: Special Topics in Mechanical Engineering
  • ME 391: Undergraduate Projects in Mechanical Engineering
  • ME 221L: Structure and Properties of Solids
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 529: Theoretical and Applied Polymer Science (GE, BB)

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Gonzales, Gavin, Jiaul Hoque, Anna Gilpin, Biswanath Maity, Stefan Zauscher, and Shyni Varghese. “Branched poly-l-lysine for cartilage penetrating carriers.” Bioeng Transl Med 9, no. 3 (May 2024): e10612.
  • Malmsten, M., and S. Zauscher. “Innovations in colloid and interface science: Revolutionizing antimicrobial therapeutics.” Current Opinion in Colloid and Interface Science 70 (April 1, 2024).
  • Zauscher, Stefan, Y. I. C. H. E. N. G. ZHAO, Zehra Parlak, Wenjun Yu, Daniel French, and Wilkins Aquino. “Microfluidic QCM enables ultrahigh Q-factor: a new paradigm for in-liquid gravimetric sensing.” Research Square Platform LLC, January 5, 2024.
  • Wang, Shuang, Po-An Lin, Marcello DeLuca, Stefan Zauscher, Gaurav Arya, and Yonggang Ke. “Controlling Silicification on DNA Origami with Polynucleotide Brushes.” Journal of the American Chemical Society 146, no. 1 (January 2024): 358–67.
  • Deshpande, Sonal, Yunqi Yang, Stefan Zauscher, and Ashutosh Chilkoti. “Enzymatic Synthesis of Aptamer-Polynucleotide Nanoparticles with High Anticancer Drug Loading for Targeted Delivery.” Biomacromolecules 25, no. 1 (January 2024): 155–64.