Experimental Studies of Gels
Rama Bansil’s primary interest is in gels, which are found in numerous products of daily use, have fascinating visco-elastic properties, fundamentally different than solids or liquids. Bansil’s laboratory is devoted to interdisciplinary research ranging from Polymer Physics to Biophysics. Through a variety of experimental methods such as light scattering, small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering, and microscopy complemented by computer simulations of model gels, Bansil’s group has elucidated the structure of gels at the molecular level, the physics of gel formation, diffusion in gels and the kinetics of phase transitions and chemical reactions in gels. Current research projects include the phase behavior of multiblock copolymer gels and their application to develop templates for nanoscale devices. Many living tissues are in the form of gels, which has excited a great deal of interest as a substrate for tissue regeneration. Bansil and her collaborators at Harvard Medical School have focused their attention on understanding the role that gelation of mucin (a glycoprotein found in the mucus layer) plays in preventing the stomach from being digested by the highly acidic gastric juice that it secretes. Their studies using dynamic light scattering and atomic force microscopy have contributed to a detailed mechanism of how mucin molecules gel under acidic conditions.