CEMS Seminar Series - Dr. Jennifer Martinez
Dr. Jennifer Martinez, Director, Center for Materials Interfaces in Research and Applications, ¡MIRA!; Professor, Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science, Northern Arizona University
Seminar title: "The Genetic Encoding of Hard and Soft Matter."
Controlling the interface between hard and soft (biological) moieties can produce functional materials and assemblies for imaging and sensing, regenerative medicine, and optoelectronics. Vignettes of our work utilizing genetic encoding to produce molecular-like fluorescent metal nanoclusters, metal- and conjugated oligomer-polymer composites, and libraries of polymers utilized for regenerative medicine will be presented. Noble metal nanoclusters, containing a few to several hundred metal atoms with sizes ranging from sub-nanometer to ∼1.5 nm, constitute a special class of nanomaterial. Unlike their larger counterparts (e.g., plasmonic nanoparticles), the ultrasmall size induces strong quantum confinement effects, which leads to molecule-like properties such as discrete energy levels with sizable band gap, strong optical absorption characterized by multiple single electron transitions, and size and surface dependent photoluminescence. As a bridge between molecular materials and nanoparticles, metal nanoclusters have attracted increasing research interest and hold promising applications in optics, catalysis, and biomedicine. We exploit the chemical and structural specificity of DNA to not only template fluorescent nanoclusters and understand their photophysics, but to also enable their use in medical diagnostics and in the bottom-up assembly of heterostructures. Likewise, exploiting the exacting nature of biological synthesis, we genetically encode and select for polymers (e.g. elastin) with new optical and biological reactivity. Genetically engineered polymers enable design of specific and tunable materials properties at the DNA level with control over polymer function. We have created large (10^8) and diverse libraries of genetically encoded polymers and rapidly identified functional materials using a genetic technique akin to evolution and used those polymers to control cell fate and tune those polymers with electronic properties.
Jennifer S. Martinez (Jen) received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. from the University of California Santa Barbara with Prof. Alison Butler. Jen was then a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow, 2002-2004, at Los Alamos National Laboratory with Dr’s B. Swanson, A. Bradbury and A. Shreve. Jen is currently the Founding Director of ¡MIRA!, Center for Materials Interfaces in Research and Applications (a materials science and diversity center) and Professor within the Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science at Northern Arizona University (2018-current). Prior to joining NAU, Jen was Co-Deputy Director (with U Minnesota’s Nate Mara) of the Institute for Materials Science and Scientist IV within the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, Los Alamos National Laboratory (2002-2018). Her research interests span: fluorescent silver and gold nanoclusters; nanomaterials superlattice structures under pressure; genetically engineered transition metal coordinating polymers; and high-throughput selection of catalytic and optically active materials. Jen has been honored with a number of awards and recognitions, such as the William Yslas Velez outstanding STEM award (2019); Los Alamos Fellows Research Prize (2016); AAAS Fellow (2012); Kavli Fellow (2012) (18th Kavli German-American Frontiers of Science); PECASE (2008); and LANL Outstanding Mentoring Awards (2007 and 2011- her most prized!).