Illustration of a polymer molecule

Soft Matter & Nanoscale Materials

Faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science conduct research focused on computational discovery of new materials, the creation of materials on the nanoscale, and the nanoscale investigation of physical phenomena and properties of polymers, soft-wet, and nanomaterials.

Zehra Parlak, a former postdoctoral student of Professor Stefan Zauscher, has started a new company called Qatch based on research she conducted in his laboratory.

Research Areas

  • Bio-inspired materials
  • Nanoscale materials
  • Nanomechanics
  • Nanocomposites
  • Nanotribology
  • Polymers
  • Proteins
  • Soft matter
  • Soft-wet materials

Major Centers & Initiatives

We foster strong and growing multidisciplinary connections with faculty across Duke University and beyond that include:

Related Study Opportunities

PhD

Specializations include:

Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng)

Concentrations include:


Further Options at Duke

Duke University Program in Materials Science and Engineering

The program offers a general materials science and engineering (MSE) curriculum and degree title. Learn more »

NSF Creates Polymer Chemistry Optimization Center at Duke for Future Materials

The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $20 million grant to Duke University researchers to explore and optimize the chemical structure and physical properties of individual molecules in a polymer network.

Two pictures of a copper-colored square attached to a white piece of fabric, one with five rows of open vents and the other with the vents closed

Innovative Textile Vents to Release Heat When You Sweat

Moisture opens the vents, rather than electronics

A series of two red blocks, with each step in the series having something different done to one of them

Predicting Forces between Oddly Shaped Nanoparticles

Simplified model of van der Waals forces will allow previously impossible simulations of how faceted nanoparticles self-assemble into larger structures

Associated Faculty

Stefan Zauscher

Stefan Zauscher

Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

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...

Gaurav Arya

Gaurav Arya

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

Research Interests: Molecular modeling, molecular simulations, statistical mechanics, coarse-graining, machine learning, polymer and colloidal physics, polymer-nanoparticle composites, chromatin biophysics, DNA nanotechnology, viral DNA packaging, single-molecule force spectroscopy, nanoscale...

Matthew L Becker

Matthew L Becker

Hugo L. Blomquist Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

Research Interests: Polymer chemistry; bioconjugate chemistry; molecular imaging and additive manufacturing; materials for bone, soft tissue, neural and vascular tissue engineering; drug and protein delivery; degradable materials for flexible electronics

L. Catherine Brinson

L. Catherine Brinson

Sharon C. and Harold L. Yoh, III Distinguished Professor

Research Interests: Study of advanced material systems and developing new methods to characterize and to model material behavior. Her lab’s research objective is to characterize and model advanced materials systems, at scales spanning the range of molecular interactions, micromechanical and...

Olivier Delaire

Olivier Delaire

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Olivier Delaire investigates atomic dynamics in materials, focusing on problems at the interface of Materials Science, Physics and Chemistry. His research group utilizes a range of experimental and computational approaches, including neutron and x-ray scattering techniques,...

Ken Gall

Ken Gall

Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Materials science, mechanical properties, metals and polymers. Specialties: Shape memory materials, biomaterials, 3D printing.

Piotr E. Marszalek

Piotr E. Marszalek

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Investigating relationships between structural and mechanical properties of biopolymers (polysaccharides, DNA, proteins), at a single molecule level.

David Needham

David Needham

Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Needham’s research and development is nothing if it is not collaborative. Highlights: Anti-cancer drug delivery inspired by how cancer's survive and spread due to their consumption of Lipoprotein particles from the blood-stream (LDLs and VLDLs) hence his approach: Make the drug...

Xiaoyue Ni

Xiaoyue Ni

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Flexible electronics, precision measurement, non-destructive testing, deformation physics of random media, mechanical metamaterials, robotic materials and smart structures, machine learning

Christine K. Payne

Christine K. Payne

Yoh Family Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Molecular mechanisms by which cells interact with materials, specifically nanoparticles and conducting polymers, with applications in nanomedicine and environmental exposure

Michael Rubinstein

Michael Rubinstein

Aleksandar S. Vesic Distinguished Professor

Research Interests: Polymer theory and computer simulations

Shyni Varghese

Shyni Varghese

Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science and Orthopaedics

Research Interests: Musculoskeletal tissue repair, disease biophysics and organ-on-a-chip technology

Ashutosh Chilkoti

Ashutosh Chilkoti

Alan L. Kaganov Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Research Interests: Focused on biomolecular materials and biointerface science and emphasizes the development of applications that span the range from bioseparations, biosensors, biomaterials, and targeted drug delivery.

Dennis Onyeka Frank-Ito

Dennis Onyeka Frank-Ito

Associate Professor in Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences

Research Interests: Modeling the effects of human airway anatomy on respiratory airflow patterns, deposition of inhaled gases and particle transport using computational fluid dynamics.

Shivanand Lad

Shivanand Lad

Professor of Neurosurgery

Research Interests: Neurotrophin biology, neuroregeneration, medical device design

Benjamin J. Wiley

Benjamin J. Wiley

Professor of Chemistry

Research Interests: In the Wiley Group, we make new nanomaterials by controlling the assembly of atoms in solution, and explore applications for nanomaterials in medicine, catalysis, plasmonics, and electronics. Our goal is to precisely control the size, shape, and composition of materials on the...

Po-Chun Hsu

Po-Chun Hsu

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

Research Interests: Smart multifunctional textiles, camouflage fabrics, stimuli-responsive polymer, wearable electronics, photon management, radiation heat transfer, solar desalination and water harvesting, electrochemical devices, electrospinning and fiber fabrication