Principal Investigator

Prof. Mehmet Sarikaya | Director, GEMSEC

Professor, Materials Science & Engineering

Adjunct Professor, Chemical Engineering

Adjunct Professor, Oral Health Sciences 

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University of California, Berkeley, CA, Materials Science & Engineering, PhD, 1982

University of California, Berkeley, CA, Materials Science & Engineering, MS, 1979

Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, Metallurgical Engineering, BS, 1977

Research Interests

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Molecular Biomimetics: Genome-based Materials Science and Engineering

Physical and chemical functions of organisms are carried out by a large number of proteins and peptides through predictable and self-sustaining interactions. In Nature, biomolecule-material interaction is accomplished via molecular specificity and high efficiency leading to the formation and self-assembly of controlled functional constructs, structures, tissues, and systems at all scales of dimensional hierarchy. Through evolution, Mother Nature developed molecular recognition via successive cycles of mutation and selection.

Molecular specificities of probe-target interactions are all based on specific peptide-molecular recognition. With the recent developments of nanoscale engineering in physical sciences, and the advances in molecular biology, we are now able to combine genetic tools with synthetic nanoscale constructs, and create a hybrid methodology. In this approach, we use biology as a guide and adapt bioschemes including combinatorial biology, post-selection engineering, bioinformatics, and modeling to select and tailor short peptides (7-60 amino acids) with specific binding to and assembly on functional materials, e.g., metals, ceramics, and semiconductors. Based on the fundamental principles of genome-based design, molecular recognition, and self-assembly, we can now engineer peptides for inorganics and synthetic functional molecules as nucleators, catalyzers, growth modifiers, molecular linkers and erector sets, fundamental utilities for nano- and nanobio-technology. Our collaborative research group in this rapidly developing polydisciplinary field, focuses on: 

  1. Genetic engineering of inorganic-binding polypeptides;

  2. Nature of binding, specificity and assembly of peptides on selective materials using experimental and theoretical tools (protein structure prediction);

  3. Multifunctional peptide-nanoparticle hybrid construct development; and

  4. Biosynthesis and functional organization of hybrids using inorganic-binding peptides for photonic and medical applications.

Some of the focus areas of research include:
  • Combinatorial biology of peptides (via cell surface and phage display) 

  • In vivo and in silico design of inorganic binding peptides 

  • Protein binding, structure and function (modeling, spectroscopy, & imaging) 

  • Engineered evolution of proteins 

  • Self-assembly, directed assembly, co-ordinated assembly of nanoparticles and macromolecules 

  • Molecular erectors for nanobiotechnology 

  • Whole-tooth regeneration (enamel, dentin, & cementum); biological and biomimetics 

  • Bio-nanophotonics (harvesting nanophotonic effects for detecting molecular & NP targets) 

  • Functional nanoparticle-peptide hybrid constructs for chemical & biological detection 

  • Materials science of the neurodegenerative diseases (self-assembly in the brain) 

  • Multifunctional biomedical probes (e.g., cancer) 

  • Peptide-based nanoelectronics & nanomagnetics 

  • Structure-function relations from natural hard tissues 

  • Light, electron, x-ray & scanned probe microscopies & spectroscopies 

Professional Activities and Memberships
  • Member of Materials Research Society, American Chemical Society, Microscopy Society of America, American Society of Materials, The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society, American Ceramic Society, American Physical Society, Microanalysis Society, and American Association of Advancement of Science.

  • Reviewer of NSF, NIH, DOE, ARO, DARPA, and AFOSR Panels and Proposals.

  • Member of the Panels of National Academy of Engineering: Nonconventional Concrete Technologies (1997/98) and Army After Next (1998/99).

  • Reviewer of journals such as Langmuir, Nature, Science, Nanoletters, Nanoscience & Nanotechnology, Nature-Mater., J. Mater. Res., etc.