Our research involves synthetic and biological polymers and particles in fluids. We are particularly intrigued by disease-inspired materials research: macromolecules and biomaterials strong enough to kill an organism offer special opportunities in materials science. A great example is found in the hydrophobins, which are fungal proteins with very high surface activity. Not only do these small proteins go to surfaces, but once they arrive they form strong membranes that can stabilize sub-millimeter structures in unusual shapes. For example, hydrophobins stabilize cylindrical bubbles. This defies the principle of least surface area, and indicates that the surface-active hydrophobin proteins behave as solids once they equilibrate at the surface. We try to exploit the unusual structures. Another area of research is in synthetic polypeptides, especially when attached to particles. These materials may prove useful in chiral separations, and we believe they offer special opportunities for study of crowded colloidal suspensions. Polyelectrolyte behavior is another research theme and showcases our abilities in polymer characterization, including development of new methods.
Dr. Pardue’s lab is focused on developing treatments for people with vision loss. Steps to successful treatment require understanding the mechanisms of the disease and characterizing temporal changes to identify therapeutic windows, with the ultimate goal of rehabilitation of visual function. She uses behavioral electrophysiological, morphological, molecular, and imaging approaches to evaluate changes in retinal function and structure. Her research is guided by applying knowledge of retinal circuits and visual processing, often leading to studies of cognition and the interaction of retinal and visual circuits during health and disease. Her studies start in animal models and move to human trials when possible.