Material Sciences
 
Andrea Del Vecchio
My work focuses on the development of stress in thin films either during growth or processing of the film.  The problem of thin film stress is an important one as fracture or bending due to stress can cause failure in thin film devices such as computer chips. In order to investigate stress in thin films experimentally, I use an optical system that measures the curvature of the thin film and uses this curvature to calculate the stress.  In addition, I have begun to model thin film growth using a Monte Carlo simulation and hope to use this model to investigate the mechanisms of stress development, which are still not well understood.  Students who work in my lab become familiar with thin film stress measurements, thin film deposition and computer modeling techniques.  There is also the potential to use characterization techniques such as electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction through collaboration with other colleges.
 
Laura Cooley
We are studying a protein known as actin, which is responsible for providing cells with their internal structure (cytoskeletal structure).  This protein polymerizes from a form known as globular actin (G-actin) to form filamentous actin (F-actin).  F-actin filaments are about seven nanometers wide, and can grow quite long.  Like DNA molecules, they carry negative charges.
While actin filaments carry negative charges, under certain conditions they can nevertheless be made to aggregate (or form bundles.)
            There are many reasons for studying these phenomena.  For example, the high viscosity of sputum in cystic fibrosis patients is caused in part by aggregation of actin in the sputum.
    •                Why does this happen? 
    •                Can it be reversed? 
    •                How?
To answer these questions requires basic knowledge of how and why bundles form. Currently I am performing a study of how bundle size varies with concentration of added magnesium ions, above threshold concentration. 
To do this, I am using fluorescence microscopy. We measure the fluorescence intensity across a bundle and figure out the relative size from the relative fluorescence intensity.  See image above.

Steven Rivers
My research area is experimental surface science.  This means I do experiments to learn about the science that occurs at the surfaces of materials, in thin films, or at the interface between two different materials.  My research students at RIC grow metal films by thermal evaporation of metal shot in vacuum.  The films are deposited on glass or silicon substrates and vary in thickness from a few atomic layers to a fraction of a millimeter.  We examine these films by laser reflectivity, spectrophotometry, and conductivity measurements.