Stefan Zauscher


Sternberg Family Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

My research lies at the intersection of surface and colloid science, polymer materials engineering, and biointerface science, with four central areas of focus:

1. Fabrication, manipulation and characterization of stimulus-responsive biomolecular and bio-inspired polymeric nanostructures on surfaces;
2. Nanotechnology of soft-wet materials and hybrid biological/non-biological microdevices;
3. Receptor-ligand interactions relevant to the diagnostics of infectious diseases;
4. Friction of soft-wet materials, specifically the role of glycoproteins on friction in diarthroidal joints.

These four broad lines of inquiry deal with fundamental behaviors of soft-wet materials on surfaces and interfaces. The design and fabrication of these interfaces using "smart" polymeric and biomolecular nanostructures, and the characterization of the resulting structures, are critically important for the development of biomolecular sensors and devices and for bioinspired materials. Key approaches and tools I use in my research are: bottom-up organization on the molecular scale, through self-assembly, in-situ polymerization, and manipulation of intermolecular interactions; topdown fabrication, through scanning probe nanolithography; stimulus-responsive polymers; molecular recognition; and new approaches to sensing and manipulation. This research supports Duke's Pratt School of Engineering strategic initiative to expand research in soft-wet Materials Science.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Sternberg Family Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
  • Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
  • Professor in the Department of Chemistry
  • Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 3385 Fciemas Building, Box 90300, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-5360
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. University of Wisconsin at Madison, 1999
  • M.S. Oregon State University, 1992

Research Interests

Nano-mechanical and nano-tribological characterization (elasticity, friction, adhesion) of materials including organic thin films; self-assembled monolayers, polymeric gels, and cellulosics; Fabrication of polymeric nanostructures by scanning probe lithography; Colloidal probe and atomic force microscopy; Single molecule force spectroscopy applied to ligand-receptor binding; Biomolecular nano- and micro sensors


Nanomaterial manufacturing and characterization
Polymer and Protein Engineering
Sensing and sensor systems

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Early CAREER Award. National Science Foundation. 2008
  • Faculty Enhancement Award. Oak Ridge Associated Universities. 2008
  • ICCES Young Investigator Award. International Center for Computational Engineering Sciences. 2008
  • Young Investigator Award. American Academy of Nanomedicine. 2008
  • Bronze Award for Scientific Achievement. 26th Army Science Conference, U.S. Army Research. 2008
  • Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. National Science Foundation. 2003

Courses Taught

  • BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 529: Theoretical and Applied Polymer Science (GE, BB)
  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • ECE 391: Projects in Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • ME 221L: Structure and Properties of Solids
  • ME 514: Theoretical and Applied Polymer Science (GE, BB)
  • ME 555: Advanced Topics in Mechanical Engineering
  • ME 591: Research Independent Study in Mechanical Engineering or Material Science
  • ME 592: Research Independent Study in Mechanical Engineering or Material Science

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Navarro, LA; French, DL; Zauscher, S, Advances in mucin mimic synthesis and applications in surface science, Current Opinion in Colloid & Interface Science, vol 38 (2018), pp. 122-134 [10.1016/j.cocis.2018.09.004] [abs].
  • Rastogi, SK; Anderson, HE; Lamas, J; Barret, S; Cantu, T; Zauscher, S; Brittain, WJ; Betancourt, T, Enhanced Release of Molecules upon Ultraviolet (UV) Light Irradiation from Photoresponsive Hydrogels Prepared from Bifunctional Azobenzene and Four-Arm Poly(ethylene glycol)., Acs Applied Materials & Interfaces, vol 10 no. 36 (2018), pp. 30071-30080 [10.1021/acsami.6b16183] [abs].
  • Navarro, LA; French, DL; Zauscher, S, Synthesis of Modular Brush Polymer-Protein Hybrids Using Diazotransfer and Copper Click Chemistry., Bioconjugate Chemistry, vol 29 no. 8 (2018), pp. 2594-2605 [10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.8b00309] [abs].
  • Gu, R; Oweida, T; Yingling, YG; Chilkoti, A; Zauscher, S, Enzymatic synthesis of nucleobase-modified single-stranded DNA offers tunable resistance to nuclease degradation, Biomacromolecules (2018) [10.1021/acs.biomac.8b00816] [abs].
  • Maskarinec, SA; Parlak, Z; Tu, Q; Levering, V; Zauscher, S; L√≥pez, GP; Fowler, VG; Perfect, JR, On-demand release of Candida albicans biofilms from urinary catheters by mechanical surface deformation., Biofouling, vol 34 no. 6 (2018), pp. 595-604 [10.1080/08927014.2018.1474461] [abs].