Making Materials: Synthesize Polymeric Biomaterials and Catalysts

Our team works to design hydrogels that mimic biological tissues. These tissue mimics seek to copy the mechanical and chemical properties of living tissues while also recapitulating their architecture. We form these synthetic tissue mimics from hydrogels. Hydrogels are super hydrophilic polymers that are saturated with water (hydrogels) to build synthetic tissues. Hydrogels are important materials for modeling biological tissues and for studying biological function in benchtop contexts because they are biocompatible, easily modified to present biological signals, and can be made to mimic the mechanical properties of living tissues.

It is essential that hydrogel systems are made of tunable crosslinking agents with catalysts that can be used in a variety of situations. Recently oxime-mediated crosslinking of hydrogels has been on the rise due to oxime systems’ semi-reversibility and completely biocompaticle reagents and reaction byproducts. However, without the typical aniline catalyst this reaction will not proceed at neutral pH (which is important for biological systems). Aniline use as a catalyst is in itself problematic though as it is not very water soluble and is somewhat cytotoxic. Through this project, we aim to evaluate a novel catalyst for the oxime reaction, namely a suite of poly(ethlyene glycol) modified aniline molecules. These catalysts will be evaluated for their solubility in water, catalytic capabilities in oxime-meditated polymer crosslinking, and their biocompatibility. Through this work, you will join a team that is working to create new biomaterials and polymerization mechanisms that are biocompatible! This work continues the work of a Mudd alum!

Check out this representative publication to learn more:

Name of research group, project, or lab
Microfluidics and Biomaterials Laboratory
Why join this research group or lab?

As a member of this group, you would work on projects that collectively build knowledge at the intersection of fluid mechanics, bioengineering, and material engineering. Together, our work seeks to build tools and materials for evaluating biological function in benchtop models to uncover biological function.

Logistics Information:
Project categories
Chemical Engineering
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

Students with a keen interest in organic chemistry and synthesis or who have taken organic chemistry (or those planning to take this course during this academic year) are encouraged to apply. Furthermore, students with interest in polymers and material characterization may also be interested in applying.

Time commitment
Fall - Part Time
Spring - Part Time
Academic Credit
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Organic synthesis, oscillatory shear rheology, hydrogel design, experimental design, data analysis

Contact Information:
Mentor name
Mentor email
Mentor position
Name of project director or principal investigator
Steven Santana
Email address of project director or principal investigator
2 sp. | 2 appl.
Hours per week
Fall - Part Time (+1)
Fall - Part TimeSpring - Part Time
Project categories
Chemical Engineering (+1)
ChemistryChemical Engineering