Hierarchical Control and Characterization of Synthetic and Biopolymer Materials
Dr. Gabriel Burks, Army Research Office MURI Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m., April 28, 2022 | Carey Auditorium, 107 Hesburgh Library
From their fundamental building blocks, many soft- and hard- materials have structural organization on several length-scales which are a function of their processing, chemistry, and molecular spatial orientation. Our mechanistic understanding of these molecular arrangements dictates our ability to progress future technology and improve the comfort of our lives. To-date we have made great progress towards our understanding and control of synthetic soft matter systems; however, there still exists several domains and examples where natural and biological systems greatly outperform our synthetic products. In these cases, there is much for us to learn from nature that may be applied to our synthetic processing capabilities.
Brochosomes are novel nanostructures intracellularly produced inside hindgut leafhoppers (Hemiptera; Cicadellidae) and are composed of a novel class of intricately arranged and disulfide bond crosslinked secretory proteins. They are hollow and pitted Buckyball shaped structures found in leafhopper excrement and used to cover the insect integument for camouflage and hydrophobic properties. Here I will discuss our work investigating leafhopper brochosomes as an example of a biological system that exhibits hierarchical macromolecular structure and polyvinylidene fluoride as a model synthetic polymer system to study non-flat semicrystalline morphologies. I will follow that with some vignettes of my work in STEM education and Engineering entrepreneurship.
Dr. Gabriel Burks is an Army Research Office MURI Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vice-President and Head of Research & Development of FrostDefense Envirotech Inc. – NSF SBIR Phase II funded startup company dedicated to developing sustainable solutions to protect vineyards from frost damage.
After completing his Baccalaureate Degree in Physics from Grambling State University, he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Materials Science & Engineering from Drexel University, where he developed his primary research expertise in polymer crystallization, characterization, and transmission electron microscopy. While at Drexel, Dr. Burks was a 3-time National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellow, a Koerner Family Fellowship recipient, received the Materials Science & Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student Award, selected as the College of Engineering Commencement Speaker, and recently was awarded the Drexel University Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award.
Over the past 7 years, Dr. Burks has gained much experience in STEM pedagogy and STEM education research as an NSF GK-12 Fellow, a Philadelphia School District K-12 STEM teacher, an undergraduate engineering co-instructor, and as an NSF-RED Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Bioengineering Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he was investigating how STEM education may be improved to better serve a continually diversifying student population.