Researcher Angela Pitenis receives NSF award to study friction between soft materials

By Agencies

Many soft biomedical devices, such as silicone implants and contact lenses, operate while in direct contact with living cells and tissues.

They may be designed to adjust their form or appearance, or to improve their interactions inside the body.

A problem with such devices is that soft implant surfaces may induce inflammation by unintentionally increasing friction when the outer surface of the device slides against living cells and tissues.

Angela Pitenis, an assistant professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Materials Department, has received a prestigious Early CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study this problem, with an eye to improving medical devices used by millions each year.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development program, which encourages junior faculty to pursue cutting-edge research and advance excellence in education, will provide Pitenis with nearly $600,000 in funding over five years.

“The Early CAREER award is a tremendous honor,” said Pitenis, who works to better understand interfacial phenomena, such as friction, adhesion and wear, between soft materials and living cells.

“As an experimentalist, research support is everything. This award provides funding for a dedicated Ph.D. student researcher, essential reagents and recharge fees for the use of shared experimental facilities and funding for outreach programs focused on science communication and broadening participation among underrepresented and underserved groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I am very excited that the NSF supports my research directions and my role as a teacher-scholar.”