Thinking Small About Old Polymers at the Medicine/Engineering Interface, Prof. Gary E. Wnek


Thinking Small About Old Polymers at the Medicine/Engineering Interface

Gary E. Wnek
Department of Chemical Engineering
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA

Tuesday, November 12
Michael's At Shoreline
Shoreline Park, Mt. View, CA


Significant opportunities remain for the use of polymeric materials in medicine. Recent efforts in our laboratories have focused on processing and applying rather conventional polymers in new ways to address problems in surgery, wound repair, and clinical medicine. Of particular interest are fibrous polymer scaffolds for tissue engineering where fiber diameters and materials properties mimic those of the natural extracellular matrix. Toward that end, the simple technique of electrospinning can be used to create tissue engineering scaffolds based on poly(lactic acid), poly(glycolic acid), or collagen with scaffold fiber diameters as small as 0.1 um. The scaffolds can also be designed to release a variety of substances that assist in tissue growth or wound repair. We have also developed a new and simple approach for the creation of microfluidic devices using a 2-D printing technique, and foresee their use in clinical applications such as blood coagulation monitoring, as well as cell and tissue culturing.


A native of Amsterdam, NY, Gary Wnek received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1977 and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1980. He was a member of the faculty of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT from 1980-87, and then joined the Department of Chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he was Department Chair from 1993-96. He also served as Director of the Polymer Science and Engineering Program at RPI and was the first Director of the New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis. Dr. Wnek moved to VCU in August 1996 to chair the new Chemical Engineering program.

Dr. Wnek received the Dupont Young Faculty Award and IBM Career Development Award while at MIT, and was co-recipient of the Eastern New York Intellectual Property Law Association ‘Inventor of the Year’ award for the development of new membrane materials for fuel cell applications. He is a co-founder of the Dais Corporation (now Dais Analytic Corp., Odessa, FL) which is commercializing fuel cell materials and devices. He is also a co-founding inventor of NanoMatrix, Inc. (Irving, TX and Richmond, VA), a start-up developing electrospun, biodegradable matrix materials for tissue engineering and other medical applications.

Dr. Wnek’s research interests focus primarily on polymers with unusual electrical and optical properties, modulation of morphology in multiphase polymers using electric fields, new approaches for fabrication of thin polymer fibers as scaffolds for tissue engineering, and polymer hydrogels for advanced wound care applications. He has published over 120 papers, co-edited 4 books, and holds 13 U.S. patents. He has served as Associate Editor of the ACS Journal ‘Chemistry of Materials’ from 1989-96, and is a member of the Editorial Board of that Journal and ‘Polymer-Plastics Technology and Engineering.’

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