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Seminar Series

"Design & Characterization of Biopolymer Building Blocks: Toward Manufacturing Biopolymer-based Functional Materials"

Dr. Minkyu Kim

Post Doc
Department of Chemical Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Biopolymers, such as natural proteins and synthetic polypeptides, have attracted widespread interest as building blocks for biopolymer-based functional materials in biomedical and industrial applications. Understanding the physical properties of the biopolymers, like mechanical properties dependent on the folded structure, molecular recognition and self-assembly abilities, and sequence-dependent thermodynamic behavior, can foster advances in functional, responsive, and tunable materials. Using a custom-designed AFM for nanoscale tensile testing, a unified structure - mechanical property relationship of α-helical solenoidal-shaped proteins was developed. In addition, a new technique was developed to gauge the interfacial rupture strength of subunits in biopolymer assemblies. This technique permits the investigation of assemblies that can be used as molecular “screws” or “bolts” in novel biopolymeric materials.

The important key to manufacture biopolymer-based functional materials is cost-effective synthesis and scalability of producing the building blocks. Amino acid sequences of biopolymers can be precisely controlled and easily modified through genetic engineering, allowing production of large batch, high purity, and monodisperse biopolymers. This approach has been successfully implemented for chemical warfare agent decontamination with organophosphorus hydrolase (OPH) and for mimicking selective filter biological hydrogels with designed nucleoporin-like polypeptides (NLP), improving batch quantity for both functional biopolymers.


Dr. Minkyu Kim is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his B.S. (2004) in Mechanical Engineering from Kyung Hee University (Korea) and M.S. (2006) in Biomedical Engineering and Ph.D. (2011) in Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science from Duke University. He also received graduate certificates (2010) from the Center for Biologically Inspired Materials & Material System and Center for Biomolecular & Tissue Engineering at Duke University. Dr. Kim’s research expertise is in mechanics of soft materials and protein engineering, with a particular emphasis on single-molecule biomechanics, molecular self-assembly, polymer networks, gels and biopolymer-based functional materials. He has been recognized with a Graduate Study Abroad Fellowship from the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation, Medtronic Pre-doctoral Fellowship, research award from the Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, and Student Research Achievement Award from the Biophysical Society.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
1:00 PM
132 Fluor Daniel Building