Alauna C. Wheeler

UC Merced

“Exploring Self-Assembly Physics of Soft Matter Structures”

I study the fundamental physics behind the self-assembly of biological and non-biological microstructures. These structures include membranes such as human lung surfactant and the outer membrane of a Covid particle as well as microstructures made of nanoparticles in a liquid crystal solvent.

ABSTRACT

I am a PhD candidate in physics studying the fundamental physics behind the self-assembly and structure of biological and non-biological systems. I am especially interested in how these systems apply to the medical field and how knowledge of them can be harnessed to improve quality of life for those from underprivileged backgrounds. I work on a project studying the physics of the self-assembly of the COVID viral particle. I am also studying how the chemicals in e-cigarette flavorings affect the structure of pulmonary surfactant—an important membrane in our lungs that allows us to breathe. My main project is to study Nanoparticle (NP) self-assembly in a liquid crystal (LC) solvent. I recently discovered a new hexagonal foam morphology of self-assembled NP microstructure. These nanoparticles can be of a large variety of materials. Because of this versatility, a long-term goal of my work is to use these methods of creating self-assembled epithelial cell-like structures to create dynamic scaffolding from biologically favorable materials that can be used for bioartificial organs.
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