Stevens Researcher Wins Prestigious NSF Special Creativity Award

8/16/2012

Dr. Svetlana Sukhishvili honored for innovative work on multilayer polymer films leading to next-generation coatings of prosthetic implants and medical devices

Polymer coatings are used in common everyday products, from window tinting to prosthetics. Scientists are developing a new generation of multilayer coatings that greatly expand their potential. Dr. Svetlana Sukhishvili, professor of chemistry and co-director of the Nanotechnology Graduate Program at Stevens Institute of Technology has been awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) the illustrious Special Creativity Award to continue her cutting-edge research on multilayer polymer films, titled “Chain Dynamics and Layering within Polyelectrolyte Multilayer Films.”

Dr. Svetlana Sukhishvili
Dr. Svetlana Sukhishvili

“We are proud of Dr. Sukhishvili’s innovative and groundbreaking work on multilayer polymer films, and congratulate her on the coveted Special Creativity Award and grant extension,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science. “Only the most creative of investigators is given the extension, encouraging them to approach adventurous, high-risk opportunities in their research.”

Dr. Sukhishvili is an expert in physical chemistry of polymers on interfaces, surface spectroscopies, and soft materials. Her research has resulted in numerous publications in highly-rated peer-reviewed journals and two polymer film patents. She was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2007 by her peers in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments.

The grant supports fundamental work on correlating polymer chain dynamics with the structure of layered ultrathin coatings. “Understanding factors controlling film stratification is both intellectually exciting and practically important,” Dr. Sukhishvili said. “We are linking the molecular chain motions with structure and, eventually, improved performance of multilayer films in different applications.”

Dr. Sukhishvili’s research may pave the way for the next step in prosthetic coatings: multilayer film with therapeutics contained in each layer that are time-released. Imagine a hip implant with a film coating that releases an anesthetic, an antibiotic, and a growth factor at separate timed intervals to reduce pain, and prevent infections and bio-rejection.

Creating a “smart” coating such as this requires placing different drugs within different sublayers and building stratified films. However, current techniques are unable to fully control the properties and structure of such thin films, limiting progress in the field. Dr. Sukhishvili’s team is developing techniques to study and manipulate the intricately layered structure of nanoscale polymer films by combining three advanced techniques: fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP), and neutron reflectometry. Collectively, these three techniques provide the team the means to understand multilayered films and developer better, “smarter” coatings.

“The NSF does not give Spec ial Creativity Awards lightly. Recipients must be nominated, and the extension is given for continuing research grants that show exceptional promise, and to investigators who have a proven history of excellence,” says Dr. Philip Leopold, director of the Chemistry, Chemical Biology, and Biomedical Engineering Department. “This award indicates Dr. Sukhishvili’s immense talents and skills as a researcher, and we look forward to the fantastic results of her research.”

Learn more about the Chemistry, Chemical Biology, and Biomedical Engineering Department and Nanotechnology Graduate Program and apply at Undergraduate and Graduate Admissions.