Dr. Michelle Gaines


Here, you will find a summary of my professional and academic activities, as a new Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Spelman College. I include my research interests in Polymer Materials, Biopolymers, and Polymer Interfacial Behavior. I also highlight some of my teaching experience, acquired as an NIH IRACDA postdoctoral fellow. Finally, I showcase a few of my outreach activities in the science community. After reading through my site, you will gain a sense that my personal mission is to be a progressive scientist, supportive mentor, and genuine colleague.



  • B.S. Chemical Engineering, Michigan State University, 2003
  • Ph.D. Materials Science & Engineering, North Carolina State University, 2008
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Georgia Tech Research Institute, 2010-2011
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory University, 2011-2014
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Georgia Tech, 2015 - 2017

Contact Information

Spelman College

Department of Chemistry, Science Center, #378

Phone: 404-270-5743

Lab: 404-270-6209
Email: mgaines6@spelman.edu



Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

My research program is themed around studying the interfacial properties of soft materials. My lab’s main focus is to study the material properties of colloidal microgel particle systems, which will lead towards the development of self-actuating biosensors. I also explores the interfacial chemistry between cells and hydrogels on biological interfaces. Furthermore, I am interested in understanding the fundamental the physical and chemical behaviors that influence polymer self-assembly, which are being applied toward the development of organic electronic materials.

I plan to develop a new educational venture called, Hair Academy. I envisions that this new interdisciplinary program will allow students and faculty to consider how phenotypic differences in hair produce different material properties. The program will add to Spelman College’s legacy of being a global leader in producing culturally inclusive thought-leaders.

Areas of expertise: Materials Science, Atomic Force Microscopy, Rheology, Block Copolymers, Polymer Chemistry, Polymer Physics and Nanomaterials

Key Interests: Soft materials. Interfacial chemistry. Biomolecular materials. Polymer microgel particles. Self-actuating polymers. Organic electronics. Block copolymers. Self-assembly. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). Hydrogels. Biophysics of epithelial cell monolayers. Inorganic nanomaterials. Material properties of hair.

Focus Areas

  • Current: Autonomous Migratory Microgel Particles for In Vivo Pharmacological Delivery Applications & Biophysics of epithelial cells biofilms on toroidal-shaped hydrogels
  • Supramolecular self-assembly of helical polymers responding to chiral stimuli
  • Equilibrium phase behavior and structure of deoxygenated sickle hemoglobin to lead toward the rational design of an effective anti-sickling agent
  • Surface chemistry of pluronic polymers on red blood cell surfaces

Broader Impact

  • Discover new treatment options for sickle cell disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)
  • Biosenser design for bioregulation, chiral separation, and chiral sensing
  • Nanoparticles for drug delivery
  • Diseases that involve fluids that facilitate waste removal

Selected Publications

Publications on Google Scholar

"My Teaching Philosophy is to Inspire Students to take Responsibility for their own Learning."

Active Learning Training

  • Digital Pedagogy Program for Emory IRACDA fellows hosted by The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (see Pre-Lecture video below)
  • “Course Within a Course” – science teaching course for Ph.D.s, provided by IRACDA postdoctoral fellowship program

Courses Taught

  • General Chemistry CHE 111
  • Physical Chemistry Lab CHE 346L
  • Inorganic Chemistry Lab CHE 421L

Teaching Seminars

  • “Supramolecular Chemistry – the Bridge between Materials Science and Classical Chemistry” Seminar – Clark Atlanta University, Spring 2012
  • The Elevator Pitch” Workshop – resulted in positive NSF CREST Center annual review ratings – Clark Atlanta University, Spring 2012

Models for Classroom Instruction

My courses use digital media to communicate with students outside of class and active learning strategies to provide students with the most effective tools to enhance their learning.

Student-Centered Teaching Used in Course Instruction

Learning Objectives:

  • Empower students to formulate their own questions and conclusions about the course material by reading, viewing the pre-lectures, and participating in classroom activities.
  • Provide a cooperative learning environment for students to experience more opportunities for problem-solving practice, instructor-student interaction, and cultivate student-student teaching.

Format for Course Instruction:

At Home:

  1. Read textbook
  2. Listen to pre-lecture (example on the right)

In Class:

  1. Answer questions
  2. Group Work - In-class exercises
  3. Short Formative Assessments


1st Law of Thermodynamics

Here is an example of a Pre-Lecture that students would be expected to watch before coming to class. They will be encouraged to write down questions or major conclusions about the pre-exercises to be discussed during the next class period. To keep students motivated, I plan to grade them at random for answering the the challenge question.

I intend to use digital media to reach more students through a diverse means of communication. I look forward to exploring more in this arena in my classes.

Physical Chemistry Group Project:

Video Example for Students

In Physical Chemistry, students worked in groups to review a peer-reviewed journal article. They were asked to provide both a written and an oral assessment of their conclusions about the article. Above is an example of what I expected from the students.

In the future, I would include an additional self-evationation piece for students to participate in, as a class. It will be an opportunity for students to practice receiving and providing anonymous constructive feedback to one another.


I enjoy providing social and professional development to students and children on science topics and life in general. I was very fortunate to have many strong mentors in my academic, professional, and social life. My goal is to empower others with more knowledge and resources, so they can achieve their life-long dreams. Here are a few quotes that I strongly agree with. These were collected from students that attended a few of my workshops.

"It is always helpful to have social and professional development. It should be a part of all graduate [student] experiences." - Clark Atlanta Graduate Student, The Elevator Pitch Workshop

"Make sure that you know your value in life and how your career goal supports that." Spelman College Student, "Ins & Outs of Graduate School Program

Workshops & Leadership

  • Mock Interviews Symposium & Registration Committee Chair, Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) Postdoctoral Conference, Atlanta, GA, June 2nd – 4th, 2013
  • “Ins & Outs of Graduate School” Program, Atlanta University Center Schools (Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University), Fall 2012
  • “Polymer Materials Processing” & “Quality Control with M&M’s”, Spelman College Dual-Degree Engineering Program, June 2012
  • Midwest Regional Secretary, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), 2002 – 2003

ACS Project S.E.E.D. Mentee - 2012


A summer high school student and I pose in front of her poster during the American Chemical Society (ACS) Project S.E.E.D. poster session of the 2012 Southeast Regional Meeting of the ACS (SERMACS) conference in Raleigh, NC. I was a research mentor for this high school student and two other undergraduate chemistry students that summer.

Community Outreach

  • “Emulsions in Food Science”, National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) Super Science Saturday, November 20th, 2010
  • “Lithium-Ion Batteries, Nanotechnology, and Emulsions in Food Science”, Decatur High School Engineering Club, Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) Department at Georgia Tech, November 3rd, 2010
  • Raleigh Boys & Girls Club, 2005
  • Project S.E.E. (Science In Everyday Experiences) Cocoordinator, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Knightdale,Wake Forest Alumnae Chapter, 2004 – 2005

There's plenty of room at the bottom. - Richard Feynman, 1965 Nobel Laureate,

Father of Nanotechnology

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