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Enhancing Soft Matter Discovery and Science Education

Interdisciplinary team utilizes NSF grant to expand research in materials science

Soft Matter

The field of soft matter, which focuses on the manipulation and use of materials (such as liquids, colloids and polymers) that can be deformed or structurally altered by thermal fluctuations, is a highly important area of research for medicine, micro and nano electronics and fluid mechanics. A multidisciplinary team of physicists and chemical and biomedical engineers at Cleveland State University has received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance ongoing research in multiple areas of soft matter discovery.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) initiative will also seek to train the next generation of scientists and engineers by pairing students from across the country with senior CSU researchers working on cutting edge projects at the bounds of soft matter development.

“While it is rare, it is very important, for undergraduate students to get this kind of hands-on experience in basic and applied science research,” notes Kiril A. Streletzky, associate professor of physics at CSU and the principal investigator for the grant. “Through this project we hope to continue to advance understanding of soft matter science and its applications while giving students a unique engaged learning opportunity in science and engineering.”

The project will focus on three main areas of research:

  • Responsive Nanoparticles: CSU researchers are advancing the use of these polymer- or protein-based nanoparticles as environmentally-responsive drug delivery vehicles and biosensors.
  • Anisotropic thin films: Multiple researchers are testing the use of these materials in a variety of microelectronic and nanoelectronic applications.
  • Soft matter fluid flow: Scientists are studying the connection between fluid flow stimulation and physiological responses in the context of tissue maintenance and repair in humans.

The effort is co-directed by Jessica Bickel, assistant professor of physics at CSU, and includes seven additional faculty from the Department of Physics and the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. The first cohort of eight student researchers will begin this summer with the REU program continuing in summer 2018 and 2019. For more information, visit

NSF’s REU program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in a host of fields including biological sciences, geosciences and engineering. REU projects also focus on improving opportunities for underrepresented groups as well as opportunities to disseminate research findings in professional conferences.