BACKGROUND: The Elinski Lab focuses on surface chemistry and tribology - the study of surfaces in relative motion (including friction, adhesion, lubrication, and wear).
From medical devices to interfaces within the body, sliding surfaces play a critical role in the blinking of the eye, surgical instruments, healthy and artificial joints, and many other structures. Given the diverse composite structures of the body along with the complexity of the fluid environments, chemical structure-function relationships are at the core of many of the processes that enable healthy motion in joints and recovery treatments after normal functions break down. To address these complexities in systematic ways, hydrogels – water swollen polymer networks – are often employed to mimic biological components. Using hydrogels as a platform for surface studies, the Elinski Lab aims to understand the interplay of chemical-mechanical mechanisms governing sliding for cartilage-mimicking systems.
PROJECT OVERVIEW: Student researchers on this project will synthesize hydrogels, focusing on double network hydrogels that replicate the unique characteristics of cartilage. These will include, but not be limited to, polyacrylamide, polyvinyl alcohol, and poly(2-acrylamido-2-methylpropanesulfonate). The specific chemical compositions and structures will be tailored to understand what chemical interactions in controlled liquid environments impact interfacial adhesion, friction, and wear.
A suite of analytical instruments will be used for this work, including atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM/EDS), and attenuated total reflectance Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR).
DETAILS: The summer research program will consist of 10 forty-hour work weeks to be conducted in the Elinski Lab on Hope College’s campus.* In addition to the research there are professional development activities, along with planned social events throughout the summer to meet fellow chemistry researchers and students conducting research in other departments! There is also the potential for research projects to be continued into the following academic year.
Working on this research will provide students with a strong foundation in fundamental chemistry at surfaces and interfaces along with multidisciplinary skills in materials, (bio)mechanics, and the wider reaching principles of nanoscience. As the primary leads for their research, students will also have opportunities for authoring peer-reviewed journal articles and presenting and networking at scientific conferences.
*if the summer 2021 research program is impacted by COVID-19, additional details and planning will be shared accordingly