DNA is the basic molecular substance that makes up all life and is a natural polymer (a chain of molecules). Finding new information that helps understand polymers better and how they can be manipulated can potentially assist a wide range of scientific fields, with consequences that could be life changing.
Sharadwata Pan, a research scholar at the IITB-Monash Research Academy, is conducting research on DNA polymers. His research focuses specifically on semi-dilute polymers and studies their properties and reactions.
Much research has been conducted on polymers in dilute solutions (those where the individual polymer can be readily identifiable), but no study has focused on the properties of semi-dilute polymers as this is more challenging. In dilute solutions, one can focus in on a single polymer, as it can be readily identifiable. However in semi-dilute polymer solutions, the individual polymers are more tightly compacted together, making it more difficult to identify one individual polymer and understand how a single polymer reacts, as other polymers that are located close by may be influencing it.
Pan’s research is focusing on how the semi-dilute polymers react under different circumstances. First, he is reviewing how the polymer size and shape changes when placed in solvents of different viscosities or when subject to differing temperatures. In addition, his study also considers how semi-dilute polymer solutions react in equilibrium state (one where there is no external force acting upon it), to that where external forces are present.
Under the guidance of Dr P Sunthar (of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India) and Professor Tam Sridhar and Dr Ravi Jagadeeshan (from Monash University, Australia), Pan’s research has the benefit of international support. The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a research partnership between two leading institutions in India and Australia.
The study is important from a practical perspective as semi-dilute polymer solutions are commonly found in many industrial contexts, such as in the ink used in printers or in the manufacture of nano-fibres. Furthermore, semi-dilute polymer solutions are also found in a biological context, for example 30% of the cycoplasm of a cell (the substance surrounding the nucleus of cell) contains semi-dilute polymer solutions.
By understanding how these polymers react in certain circumstances, for example under what temperature will these natural polymers show ideal characteristics, future research can use Pan’s findings as a benchmark for simulations. For example, a bio-medical scientist will be able to understand how to manipulate DNA in ideal temperatures.
With the broad reach across industries, Pan’s research is eagerly anticipated in various fields.
Research Scholar: Sharadwata Pan, IITB-Monash Research Academy
Project Title: Shear Rheology of Semi-dilute DNA solutions: Dependence on temperature, concentration and molecular weight
Supervisors: Dr P Sunthar (IIT Bombay), Professor Tam Sridhar (Monash University), Dr Ravi Jagadeeshan (Monash University)
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The above story was written by Ms Rakhee Ghelani based on inputs from the research student and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.