Please tell us about your background: where you grew up, what you studied and the field you chose.
I grew up in a town called Westfield, New Jersey which is only a few miles from where I live now. So it is great to be close to home after traveling for my training for 15 years. After high school I studied mechanical engineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Following that, I completed my PhD in bioengineering at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where I developed my love for science and nanomaterials. I then traveled to Europe where I did four years of postdoctoral training at Imperial College London (UK) and the Karolinska Institute (Sweden). In 2017, I moved back to New Jersey to start my lab at Rutgers University for bioinspired nanomaterials.
What led you to choose those fields? What are the challenges that excite you?
I am currently an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University. My lab is using a combination of robotics and machine learning to design polymeric materials that mimic or interface with proteins. What is really exciting about this direction in my lab is that it complements skill sets throughout my training to create a very unique research program. As a mechanical engineering undergraduate student, I worked a lot with mechanical systems and their programming. For a long time as a biomedical engineer, I was worried that all this experience would be wasted as I dove more and more into polymer/nanomaterial chemistry. Fortunately, this training came full circle as half the projects in my lab now focus on programming robotics to complete this chemistry. I think it is pretty rare for chemists to have the mechanical and programming skills to build out this type of automated chemistry, so we are excited to continue to push these boundaries in new ways.
In what context did you first learn about light scattering and Wyatt instruments?
The lab where I did my Ph.D. had a DAWN® multi-angle light scattering detector. I distinctly remember using it to characterize our polymers and obtaining very different molecular weights relative to conventional GPC calibration. Ultimately, I learned the inherent limitations to conventional GPC and gained confidence in the MALS. I also always found the staff at Wyatt to be very friendly and helpful at conferences and trade shows, so I slowly but surely became a fan of Wyatt’s instruments and their company.
How have your Wyatt instrumentation contributed to your research and development studies?
My lab now has two Wyatt instruments. The miniDAWN® MALS detector for our GPC and now their DynaPro® DLS Plate Reader III. We use the MALS detector routinely in the lab to characterize the molecular weight of our polymers by GPC. Almost always, the molecular weight by conventional GPC and MALS disagree. In some ways, this is good because it teaches my students about the strengths and weakness of both approaches and informs them how important it is to understand the physics behind the measurements. All too often, you see students read information from analytical instrumentation and take it for granted, sometimes at a fault. I find that Wyatt is particularly good at this type of important education.
Day to day, our MALS detector is critical towards characterizing our newly synthesized polymers. Now with the DynaPro DLS Plate Reader, we will be able to characterize hydrodynamic radius in high throughput.