Our group is interested in the materials processing techniques found in biological systems. More broadly, we are examining the interactions between organic and inorganic materials, where biomineralization serves as the source of our inspiration. Biominerals are found in the hard tissues of many organisms, where examples such as bones, teeth, and shells serve as common systems of study. As Materials Engineers know, the properties of a material depend on its microstructure, and the microstructure depends on the processing. Therefore, our group is devoted to learning about the processes involved in biomineralization because the hierarchical structures found in biominerals lead to enviable properties that serve as goals for engineered materials.

Our research consists of a balance between Materials Science, where we seek to understand the underlying mechanisms involved in crystal growth modulation of biominerals, and Materials Engineering, where we capitalize on the sophisticated processing capabilities found in biological systems to develop novel and advanced materials. Many of the applications of our work are biomaterials based, such as hard tissue engineering and bone graft substitutes, biodegradable core-shell microcapsules for controlled release, and molecular construction of advanced biosensors. We believe that if we are able to unravel Mother Nature’s secrets in biomineral design, we can use these principles in creating the next generation of hybrid materials.

Laurie Gower Biography

Laurie Barrett Gower, Associate Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, has developed an interdisciplinary research program in the area of Biomimetic Materials. She received her PhD in 1997 in Polymer Science & Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she became interested in the role that biopolymers play in regulating crystal growth in biologically formed minerals, such as bones, teeth, the shells of marine organisms, as well as pathological mineral formation in kidney stones and biomaterial encrustation. Prior to her doctoral work, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Bioengineering at the University of Utah, where she examined segmented-polyether-urethane-urea biomaterials for use as biocompatible elastomers for vascular grafts. Her academic career brings her back to her alma mater, the University of Florida (once a gator, always a gator!), where she first began her bachelor’s studies in Engineering Sciences with Biomedical emphasis. She returns to Florida with the same love of collecting seashells, but now from the perspective of a materials engineer with admiration of their microstructures.

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