Augustine research

Research Interests

Research in the Augustine / Hughes laboratory is highly interdisciplinary bridging the disciplines of chemistry, physics, engineering and biology. We are interested in the surface science of materials that have potential applications in biomedical devices. Understanding the surface chemistry of polymers is critical to control and manipulate biological materials in a biomedical device. We use a variety of microscopy, spectroscopy and microfabrication technologies to control polymeric thin films, and to understand their morphology and chemistry.


Nanocomposite Polymer Crystallization Kinetics

Nanocomposite thin films composed of poly(methyl methacrylate) and polyhedral oligomeric silsequioxane (POSS-MA) exhibit properties that are hybrid between a traditional organic polymer like PMMA and an inorganic oxide like SiO2. POSS-MA has properties that can be controled based on the amount of POSS that is incorporated into the PMMA backbone. We have studied how an O2 plasma environment affects the surface wetting properties of POSS-MA films (Langmuir 2007)and are currently studying the crystallization kinetics of POSS-MA in-situ and in real-time using AFM.
Current Student (s): Skylar White
pmma membrane

Microfluidic Device Fabrication

We collaborate with Prof. James Landers (U. Virginia Chemistry), Prof. Marcel Utz (U. Virginia Mechanical Engineering) and Prof. Matthew Begley (UC Santa Barbara Mechanical Engineering) on the fabrication and characterization of microfluidic devices.
Current Student (s): Alex Burant
au adhesion

Au Film Adhesion To Polymeric Surfaces

Metal adhesion to polymer surfaces is critical for a variety of device technologies such as sensors, lab-on-a-chip, and displays. Au is a commonly used interconnnect metal, but is notoriously difficult to stick to most surfaces since it is so inert. We have been developing a methodology to pre-treat PMMA surfaces with organic solvents which increases the Au adhesion by a factor of five compared to untreated or O2 plasma treated surfaces.
Current Student (s): Alan Mo, Stefan Jobe, Victoria Brown

Nanoscience Education

I am also interested in nanoscience education and introducing nanoscience experiments into the undergraduate curriculum. I collaborate extensively with Dr. Scott Paulson and Costel Constantin (JMU Physics) and Dr. Kevin Caran and Dr. Barbara Reisner (JMU Chemistry) in nanoscience education initiatives. Our work was featured in an ACS Symposium Series Book Chapter (2009).
Current Student (s):



Our work over the years has been funded by a variety of Federal and private organizations, but most of the work has been funded by the Polymers Program in the Division of Materials Research at the National Science Foundation.

Current Funding

NSF-DMR #1005641 "RUI: Phase Kinetics and Surface Modification of Nanocomposite Polymer Thin Films"
NSF-DMR #0851367 "An Interdisciplinary Materials Science REU Program at James Madison University"

nsf fulbright