29 Oct 2013
The McBain Medal recognises a rising star in colloid and interface science at the early stage of their career, typically under 40, and is given annually by the RSC/SCI Joint Colloids Group.
This year's awardee is Dr Oren Scherman from the University of Cambridge for his outstanding work on smart polymers and nanosystems with controlled architecture. The award will be presented to him at the end of a one-day symposium showcasing some of the latest research on 'Dynamic and controlled self-assembly at interfaces'.
A key scientific challenge of the past decade pertaining to the field of soft matter has been to design 'intelligent' materials which can dynamically alter their behaviour on demand. Work in Dr Scherman's group has focused on developing non-covalent interactions to build stimuli-responsive materials through rational design and step-wise, hierarchical self-assembly.
Strong, unidirectional bonds between supramolecular monomers can be utilised to achieve responsiveness to specific triggers in polymeric systems, inducing for an instance an 'on' and 'off' switch in viscosity, elasticity, conductivity or realising fascinating new functionalities, with obvious applications in biomedicine, energy, and environment sustainability. Dr Scherman was the first to report, in particular, a supramolacular polymeric hydrogel based on host-guest inclusion in cucurbit[n]urils (macrocyclic oligomers of glycoluril, which display a hydrophobic cavity capable of 'hosting' appropriate guests).
The underlying themes in Dr Scherman's research lie at the interface between synthetic efforts on small molecules and macroscopic properties at the materials level, developing a macro-organic approach to chemistry. Dynamic supramolecular self-assembly of materials is a major topic of focus for the coming years, to enable innovations in nanotechnology and at the biological and chemical interfaces.
Recent advances in the field, applications, and some of the cutting-edge techniques required to probe the nano-scale morphologies and interactions in these intelligent, responsive organised systems will be presented at the McBain symposium.
Six distinguished speakers spanning physics to biology - Chris Abell (University of Cambridge), Neil Champness (University of Nottingham), Jeremy Baumberg (University of Cambridge), Francesco Stellacci (EPFL), David Leigh (University of Manchester) and Lee Cronin (University of Glasgow) - will present their latest work in supramolecular interfaces, before Dr Scherman presents the award lecture.