Gaines Research Group

Our Research

Dr. Gaines’ research is themed around studying the interfacial properties of soft materials. Our objective is to measure energy dissipation within thermo-responsive colloidal microgel particle systems and block copolymer materials, to develop next-generation separators in lithium-ion batteries and self-actuating biosensors. The Gaines lab also explores the interfacial chemistry between cells and hydrogels on biological interfaces, as a means to develop a synthetic 3D culture microenvironment to control cell behavior. The aim is to gain a sophisticated understanding on how cells respond to specific controlled variances in the material properties of the extracellular matrix, to predict strategies to issue control over cell behavior in physiological systems. Our goals are achieved by marrying Polymer Synthesis, Materials Science, Cell Biology & Spectroscopy.


Michelle Gaines, Ph.D.

Principle Investigator


  • B.S. Chemical Engineering, Michigan State University, 2003
  • Ph.D. Materials Science & Engineering, North Carolina State University, 2008
  • Postdoc, Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), 2011
  • Postdoc, Emory University, 2014
  • Postdoc, Georgia Tech, 2017

Contact Information

Spelman College

Department of Chemistry, Science Center, #378

Phone: 404-270-5743

Lab: 404-270-6209

Faculty Website

Curriculum Vitae

Current Research Projects


AFM Image of Thermo-responsive Microgel Particles

Image of ultra-soft microgel particles on a glass substrate. Color bar indicates particle height.

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Fibroblast Cell Clusters, Cultured Within a Suspension of Microgel Particles

Fluorescent microscopy of NIH 3T3 fibroblast clusters, cultured among a suspension of fluorescently labeled microgel particles.

Research Capabilities

Atomic Force Microscopy

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Asylum Research MFP-3D Origin AFM

Light & Fluorescence Microscopy

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Zeiss Axio Observer

Microgel Synthesis


Torrey Pines HS70 Digital Hotplate & Labconco Freezezone 2.5L Lyophillizer

High Speed Camera


Vision Research Phantom VEO410L High Speed Camera

Selected Publications

  • Douglas, A.M.; Fragkopoulos, A.; Gaines, M.K.; Lyon, L.A.; Barker, T.H.; and Fernandez-Nieves, A.; “Dynamic Assembly of Ultrasoft Colloidal Networks Enables Cell Invasion Within Nanoporous Fibrillar Polymers,”
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    2017, 114 (5): 885-890.

  • Gaines, M.K., Smith, S.D., Samseth, J., Khan, S.A., and Spontak, R.J.,"Nanoparticle Network Formation in Nanostructured and Disordered Block Copolymer Matrices," Nanoscale Res. Lett.
    2010 5, 1712-1718.
  • Gaines, M. K.; Smith, S.D., Samseth, J.; Bockstaller, M.R.; Thompson, R.B.; Rasmussen, K.O; Spontak, R.J.; Nanoparticle-regulated phase behavior of ordered block copolymers. Soft Matter
    2008 4, 1609-1612.

  • Gil, E.S.; Frankowski, D.J.;
    Bowman, M.K.; Gozen, A.O., Hudson S.M.; and Spontak, R.J.; "Mixed Protein Blends Composed of Gelatin and Bombyx mori Silk Fibroin: Effects of Solvent-Induced Crystallization and Composition,"
    Biomacromolecules 2006 7, 728-735.

Publications on Google Scholar

2018-19 Spelman Undergraduate Research Team

Nefatiti Anderson (C'21)

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Biology, Pre-Med


Gabrielle Brim (C'20)

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Dual-Degree, Math & Biomedical Engineering


Diane Ingabire (C'21)

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Princess Kamuche (C'20)

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Leah Oliver (C'19)




Jade Weatherington (C'20)

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Ericka Westbrook (C'20)

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Lauren Williams (C'21)


Health Science



  • Patience Mukashyaka (C'18) - Chemistry, Graduate Student at
  • Chloe White (C'19) - Chemical Education

Lab Activities

Nefatiti Anderson (C'21) & Gabrielle Brim (C'20)

Research Symposium


Nefatiti Anderson (C'21) is a Biology major and Gabrielle Brim (C'20) is a Math Dual-Degree major. Both have presented their research on bioconjugating proteins to the surface of Microgels.

Jade Weatherington & Princess Kamuche (C'20)

FAMU Additive Manufacturing Workshop


Jade Weatherington and Princess Kamuche (C'20) pose outside of a FAMU workshop for their NSF CREST Center on Additive Manufacturing. Both are Biochemistry majors, working on bioconjugation and microgel synthesis.

Chloe White (C'19)

Spelman College Research Day, 2018


Chloe White (C'19) presents her research on Microgel Particle Interfacial Chemistry at Research Day at Spelman College, Spring 2018. Chloe was awarded 2nd Prize for the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department Poster Composition. Chloe will graduate in Spring 2019 in Chemistry Education. She will go on to pursue a Masters in Education Policy.

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

Father of Nanotechnology

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