Graduate student's research honored by Materials Research Society

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State graduate student Abdon Pena-Francesch recently won a national award for his research on self-healing protein materials.

Pena-Francesch, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State, was awarded the Materials Research Society (MRS) Silver Graduate Student Award at the 2016 MRS Spring Meeting and Exhibit.

His presentation, “Segmented molecular design of self-healing protein materials,” focused on a new approach for designing a next generation of genetically engineered proteins inspired by squid ring teeth that can be repaired and reused.

Squid ring teeth have a segmented molecular structure and self-healing capabilities, and can be easily processed into any shape, from thin films and nanotubes to large three-dimensional objects. By controlling the protein structure at the molecular level, material properties — such as thermal, mechanical and optical — can be programmed for use in an array of applications such as bioadhesives, optical fibers and coatings for medical devices.

A member of the research group led by Professor Melik C. Demirel, Pena-Francesch won the award in the Symposium SM2: Bioinspired Dynamic Materials-Synthesis, Engineering and Applications category.

“Abdon is highly intelligent and creative and has very high professional goals,” said Demirel. “Over the past three years, I have gotten to know him very well, and I have been extremely impressed with his potential for independent academic research. He has demonstrated a willingness and courage to work outside his comfort zone and an ability to work in teams of varying disciplines.”

MRS Graduate Student Awards are intended to honor and encourage graduate students whose academic achievements and current materials research display a high level of excellence and distinction. MRS seeks to recognize students of exceptional ability who show promise for significant future achievement in materials research.

Last Updated June 16, 2016