Stefan Zauscher


Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and 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

  • Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
  • Director of the Duke Materials Initiative
  • Bass Fellow
  • 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 - 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

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Fellow. American Vacuum Society (AVS). 2020
  • Dean of the Graduate School Award for Inclusive Excellence in Graduate Education. Duke University. 2016
  • Chair. 5th Gordon Research Conference in Biointerface Science. 2014
  • Marion and Capers McDonald Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research. Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering. 2012
  • ICCES Young Investigator Award. International Center for Computational Engineering Sciences. 2008
  • Bronze Award for Scientific Achievement. 26th Army Science Conference, U.S. Army Research. 2008
  • Young Investigator Award. American Academy of Nanomedicine. 2005
  • Early CAREER Award. National Science Foundation. 2003
  • Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. National Science Foundation. 2003
  • Faculty Enhancement Award. Oak Ridge Associated Universities. 2001

Courses Taught

  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 529: Theoretical and Applied Polymer Science (GE, BB)
  • 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
  • MSEG 591: Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Yang, Y; Lu, Q; Huang, C-M; Qian, H; Zhang, Y; Deshpande, S; Arya, G; Ke, Y; Zauscher, S, Programmable Site-Specific Functionalization of DNA Origami with Polynucleotide Brushes., Angewandte Chemie International Edition, vol 60 no. 43 (2021), pp. 23241-23247 [10.1002/anie.202107829] [abs].
  • Navarro, LA; Ryan, JJ; Dzuricky, M; Gradzielski, M; Chilkoti, A; Zauscher, S, Microphase Separation of Resilin-like and Elastin-like Diblock Copolypeptides in Concentrated Solutions., Biomacromolecules, vol 22 no. 9 (2021), pp. 3827-3838 [10.1021/acs.biomac.1c00672] [abs].
  • Walkowiak, J; Gradzielski, M; Zauscher, S; Ballauff, M, Interaction of Proteins with a Planar Poly(acrylic acid) Brush: Analysis by Quartz Crystal Microbalance with Dissipation Monitoring (QCM-D)., Polymers, vol 13 no. 1 (2020) [10.3390/polym13010122] [abs].
  • Fries, CN; Wu, Y; Kelly, SH; Wolf, M; Votaw, NL; Zauscher, S; Collier, JH, Controlled Lengthwise Assembly of Helical Peptide Nanofibers to Modulate CD8+ T-Cell Responses., Advanced Materials (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), vol 32 no. 39 (2020) [10.1002/adma.202003310] [abs].
  • Noyce, SG; Doherty, JL; Zauscher, S; Franklin, AD, Understanding and Mapping Sensitivity in MoS2 Field-Effect-Transistor-Based Sensors., Acs Nano, vol 14 no. 9 (2020), pp. 11637-11647 [10.1021/acsnano.0c04192] [abs].