Spotlight on Graduate Student Liz Bright

Liz Bright

Elizabeth Bright graduated from the University of New Mexico in her home town of Albuquerque. She majored in chemistry and had the privilege of working under Drs. Lorraine Deck and Robert Paine on the synthesis of benzoxazines, compounds which may be effective for binding and removing uranium from contaminated water. Upon graduation, she joined an early stage eco-friendly coatings start-up as a product developer, contributing to business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and internal operational projects. A particularly fun project involved building a manufacturing robot controlled by a Raspberry Pi and an iPad.

She joined Dr. Erik Berda’s polymer synthesis group at UNH in the fall of 2015. The Berda group specializes in the synthesis of single-chain nanoparticles (SCNP). Generally, these particles are formed by synthesizing copolymers designed to self-react under the appropriate conditions. This intrachain cross-linking process results in sub-20 nm soft nanoparticles which may be used as scaffolds for catalysts, sensors, nanoreactors, or nanomedicines, in analogy to nature’s use of folded proteins. Elizabeth’s research goal is to develop versatile methods for creating these materials, controlling their architectures, and facilitating their further modification. Her approach involves sequencing radical addiction fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization with atom-transfer radical polymerization and coupling (ATRP/C) to form SCNP from various backbone architectures, comparing the results from linear chains to those from brushes and hypergrafts. Her experiments provide insights into reaction kinetics, optimized conditions, and proof-of-concept examples of post-collapse modifications. Together, these contributions may improve access to future applications-based work.