A defining property of soft materials is their ability to undergo large deformation in response to relatively small physical or chemical perturbations. For example, capillary forces of a liquid droplet on a surface can result in elastic deformations of the substrate on the order of the elastocapillary length scale. For traditional hard material, this deformation can be less than an angstrom and is often negligible; however, for soft materials such as PDMS, this elastocapillary effect can result in deformations on the order of microns and even millimeters. My research interests lie in exploring and understanding the instabilities and mechanical behaviors that arise at and near the interfaces of soft materials.
I aim to leverage this understanding to develop new design principles for tissue engineering; just as capillary stresses at the interfaces of soft material can result in deformations, cell-generated stresses within 3D-printed tissue structures can lead to shape evolutions and even failure. We aim to leverage the phase behavior of soft materials to design new biologically inspired materials with complex internal geometries and apply these materials to investigate the behavior of biological systems under mechanical stresses.