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The Fraser group and our extensive collaborative network conduct interdisciplinary research exploring the interactions between synthetic materials and their surroundings. In the laboratory we design and synthesize new materials with distinctive properties. We tailor these systems to address fundamental questions in science and adapt them for specific practical applications. Consideration of environmental and other societal dimensions of the materials fabrication process are also important to us, both intellectually and in the research enterprise in our laboratory. We adopt a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach, encourage cooperative learning and initiative, and tailor educational and research programs to suit the interests and goals of group members.

The concept of biomaterials provides a framework for understanding our program and its long-term goals and directions.

Traditionally, this term refers to materials used in medicine, namely drug delivery systems, tissue engineering matrices, imaging agents, and other devices that are interfaced with the body. Biomedical materials are of great interest to us, and our group is engaged in a number of priority projects in these areas. With biomedical collaborators, we are investigating luminescent biomaterials for imaging and oxygen sensing and other stimuli responsive systems in tumor, cardiovascular, and diabetes islet cell transfer models. 

Biomaterials also refers to bio-inspired design, the study and application of design principles of natural materials. Because nature is so far ahead of us when it comes to sophisticated multifunctional materials, biological systems provide an abundance of ideas for features to incorporate into responsive synthetic materials. Of particular interest are:

  • modular approaches to macromolecular synthesis
  • the relationship between the linear sequence of basic subunits, the molecular architecture, conformation, and hierarchical assembly structures
  • functional materials that sense, adapt and respond to their environments

In fact, our polymeric metal complex platform was inspired by the diverse structures and functions of metalloproteins.  In our fundamental materials research, we strive for a better understanding of synthetic principles, materials properties, and processing parameters of these macromolecular metal systems. Although we are often inspired by nature, our program is not restricted to biomimicry. Much of what we do is simply driven by curiosity, the thrill of discovery, the desire to develop new approaches to functional materials and to better understand their fundamental properties. With collaborative teams of engineers, biologists, MDs and companies, we envision innovative uses for our materials in biomedicine, nanotechnology, sustainable design, and other contexts.

Finally, if we are to make materials that interface with biological systems in more intelligent ways, we must also develop a thorough understanding of the interactions that occur at the biological/synthetic interface. As molecular and nano-scientists, we are captivated by events that occur on a very small scale. Recognition, attachment, imaging, sensing and adaptation are recurring themes in our research. As scholars who think more broadly, we are also interested in design at other length scales. And as citizens, we are concerned about the implications of materials fabrication for the health and well being of humanity and the environment, on both local and global scales. While we are eager to develop innovative materials and to better understand their properties and potential applications, we also strive to adopt sustainable practices to accomplish these goals.