University of Massachusetts Amherst

Polymer Science and Engineering

Maria M. Santore

Degree Information:
B.S. Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 1985
Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, Princeton University, 1989

Mailing Address:
Department of Polymer Science and Engineering
Room A417, Conte Research Center
University of Massachusetts Amherst
120 Governors Drive
Amherst, MA 01003

Phone: 413-577-1417


Fax: 413-545-0082

Research Interests:

Interfacial polymer physics, dynamics, and colloidal phenomena:  polymer and protein adsorption, biomaterial and biomimetic membranes, surface modification (polymer brushes, placement of functionalized surface clusters), adhesion and bioadhesion (of colloidal particles, bacteria, cells), coupling of interfacial forces with external fields.  Applications include sensors, biomedical surfaces for implants and diagnostics, drug delivery vehicles, manipulation of colloidal stability, inks, paints, and coatings.

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Current Research:

Reversible physical bonds, each comprising a few kT in energy, endow a material with intrinsic dynamic versatility.  It is only through restructuring, afforded by reversible interactions, that materials can respond to stimuli and communicate with their environments. This is most evident in living systems, which constantly adapt to and manipulate their surroundings; however, dynamic responsiveness is also key to smart materials, drug delivery systems, and sensing elements.  Research in the Santore lab focuses on how forces and dynamics at the molecular and nanometer levels drive behavior at the micron scale of colloidal particles and bacteria, the 10-micron scale of cells, and larger observable length scales. We exploit principles of colloid chemistry and interfacial polymer physics to develop new materials with clever behaviors, taking inspiration from Nature: White blood cells exhibit precise rolling motion signatures on blood vessel walls in response to injury; Metastatic cancer cells prefer to invade some organs but not others; The immune system remembers diseases (and vaccines) of the parent animal for decades, engaging in highly targeted attack of invasive organisms, yet not attacking other cells of the parent animal. Students in the Santore lab create materials that exploit the underlying biophysical principles at work in these and other examples to produce new platforms for drug delivery, sensors, and biomaterials for implants, diagnostics and cell processing (tissue engineering).  Current areas of activity within the lab include:

  • surface design - creating surfaces that mimic the landscape of biological cells
  • adhesion and bioadhesion dynamics – studying dynamic interactions, including the motion signatures of rolling, slipping, arrest, and dislodging of flowing particles, bacteria, and cells
  • biomimetic and biological membrances – developing polymer- and phospholipid-based vesicles with engineered adhesive functionality and the capacity to phase separate.
  • Click for more information on Materials-Immunology Interface.


Schematic of particles flowing over a surface containing synthetic adhesion molecules. In experiments, particles include Staphylococcus bacteria and micron-scale silica spheres.


Honors and Distinctions:

  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2012
  • Fellow, American Chemical Society, 2010
  • Senior Editor, Langmuir, 2006-
  • Fellow, American Physical Society, 2005
  • American Chemical Society, Colloid and Surface Chemistry Division, Chair, 2004-2005
  • Co-Organizer, International Polyelectrolyte Meeting, 2004
  • Class of '61 Chaired Associate Professorship, Lehigh University, 1998-2001
  • Co-Organizer, Annual ACS Colloids Division Meeting, Lehigh University, 2000
  • Visiting Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, 1999-2000
  • Advisor to Outstanding Student Chapter, AICHE National Award, 1999
  • Alfred Noble Robinson Award, to an outstanding assistant professor, Lehigh University, 1996
  • Editorial Advisory Boards - Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, Langmuir