Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Top 20 Doctoral Program—National Research Council

Location

Dept. of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
University of Houston
S222 Engineering Bldg 1,
Houston, TX 77204-4004
Phone: 713-743-4300
Campus Map

Faculty

Dr. Megan Robertson

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Office Location: S230, Engineering Building 1

Tel: (713) 743-2748 | Fax: (713) 743-4323

Email: mlrobertson [at] uh [dot] edu

Website: http://robertsongroup.chee.uh.edu/

Education

  • B.S., Chemical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis (2001)
  • Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley (2006)

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, 2010-present
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Minnesota, 2008-2010
  • Senior Scientist, Rohm and Haas (now Dow Chemical), 2006-2008

Courses

  • CHEE 5377/6377 Introduction to Polymer Science (Fall 2010, Fall 2012)
  • CHEE 3333 Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics II (Spring 2012, Fall 2013)
  • CHEE 3300 Introduction to Materials Science I (Fall 2011, Spring 2013)

Research Interests

Nanostructured polymeric materials, self assembly, thermodynamics of polymer blends, structural characterization with light, neutron and x-ray scattering, biorenewable and biodegradable materials.

Current Research:

Nanostructured polymers are a class of soft materials, not unlike small-molecule surfactants, lipids and proteins, which can undergo spontaneous self-assembly into nanometer-sized domains. Polymers are pervasive in everyday life, from electronics to disposable products to medical equipment. Nanostructured polymers span many diverse and cutting-edge research areas such as nanolithography, organic semiconductors, drug delivery devices, and battery membranes. The Robertson Research Group works at the interface between polymer chemistry and polymer physics to design nanostructured materials for a variety of applications. Two current areas of emphasis are as follows:

Polymers Derived from Renewable Resources

The vast majority of polymers utilized are presently synthesized from petroleum feedstocks. The world supply of petroleum is finite and in the future it will be necessary to turn to sustainable alternative resources for polymer raw materials. The library of currently available synthetic polymers has an astounding diversity in physical properties, developed through decades of research. Though bio-based plastics are growing in number, their application is still limited due to the relatively small number of monomers that can be utilized. The goals of this research program are to:

  • Apply new and existing synthetic strategies to non-traditional monomers such as triglycerides, fatty acids, plant sugar-based molecules, and microbially-synthesized molecules.
  • Probe the physical properties of and thermodynamic interactions between biorenewable polymers including structural characterization with small angle scattering techniques.
  • Develop materials with superior properties for a plethora of applications including but not limited to drug delivery devices, organic semiconductors, and engineering plastics and elastomers.

Biodegradable Polymers for Biomedical Applications

A select group of polymers (whether renewable resource or petroleum derived) are biodegradable through a variety of mechanisms such as enzymatic degradation, hydrolysis, or microbial processes. This not only has environmental implications, but can be exploited in biomedical devices like drug delivery vehicles, heart stents, and resorbable sutures. Research efforts in this area will include:

  • Functionalization of amphiphilic polymers with reactive entities, and investigation of their controlled coupling and resulting morphological changes for use as organic nanoreactors and controlled drug delivery devices.
  • Characterization of the relevant thermodynamic and kinetic processes that govern the evolution of the polymer characteristics and resulting nanostructures during degradation.
  • Determination of the effect of polymer-drug interactions on the efficacy of materials used in drug delivery.

Awards and Honors

  • ICI Student Award in Applied Polymer Science, American Chemical Society, 2006
  • University of California Dissertation Year Fellowship, 2005-2006
  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, Chemical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 2003
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2001-2004
  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers Student Design Competition, First Place Team, 2001

Professional Activities

  • Co-Founder, Texas Soft Matter Meeting (and Co-Organizer, 2012)
  • Board of Directors, South Texas Section of the Society of Plastics Engineers (2013-2016)
  • Executive Committee Member and Secretary, NIST User Group (2013-2016)
  • Executive Committee Member, ORNL CNMS User Executive Committee (2013-2014)

Selected Publications

  1. Wang, S.; Vajjala Kesava, S.; Gomez, E. D.; Robertson, M. L.,

    “Sustainable Thermoplastic Elastomers derived from Fatty Acids,” Macromolecules, in press

    , 2013
  2. Yang, G.; Rohde, B. J.; Robertson, M. L.,

    “Hydrolytic Degradation and Thermal Properties of Epoxy Resins derived from Soybean Oil”, Green Materials1, 125-134

    , 2013
  3. Nedoma, A. J.; Lai, P.; Jackson, A.; Robertson, M. L.; Wanakule, N. S.; Balsara, N. P.,

    "Phase Diagrams of Blends of Polyisobutylene and Deuterated Polybutadiene as a Function of Chain Length", Macromolecules, 44 (8), 3077-3084

    , 2011
  4. Robertson, M. L.; Paxton, J. M.; Hillmyer, M. A.,

    "Tough Blends of Polylactide and Castor Oil", ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 3 (9), 3402-3410

    , 2011
  5. Gramlich, W. M.; Robertson, M. L.; Hillmyer, M. A.,

    “Reactive Compatibilization of Poly(L-lactide) and Conjugated Soybean Oil,” Macromolecules, 43, 2313-2321

    , 2010
  6. Nedoma, A. J.; Lai, P.; Jackson, A.; Robertson, M. L.; Wanakule, N. S.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Phase Behavior of Asymmetric Multicomponent A/B/A-C Blends with Unequal Homopolymer Molecular Weights,” Macromolecules, 43, 3549-3555

    , 2010
  7. Robertson, M. L.; Chang, K.; Gramlich, W. M.; Hillmyer, M. A.,

    “Toughening of Polylactide with Polymerized Soybean Oil,” Macromolecules, 43, 1807-1814

    , 2010
  8. Robertson, M. L.; Hillmyer, M. A.; Mortamet, A. C.; Ryan, A. J.,

    “Biorenewable Multiphase Polymers,” MRS Bulletin, 35, 194-200

    , 2010
  9. Chang, K.; Robertson, M. L.; Hillmyer, M. A.,

    “Phase Inversion in Polylactide / Soybean Oil Blends Compatibilized by Poly(isoprene-b-lactide) Block Copolymers,” ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, 1, 2390-2399

    , 2009
  10. Gomez, E. D.; Ruegg, M. L.; Minor, A. M.; Kisielowski, C.; Downing, K. H.; Glaeser, R. M.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Interfacial Concentration Profiles of Rubbery Polyolefin Lamellae Determined by Quantitative Electron Microscopy,” Macromolecules, 41, 156-162

    , 2008
  11. Nedoma, A. J.; Robertson, M. L.; Wanakule, N. S.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Measurements of the Composition and Molecular Weight Dependence of the Flory-Huggins Interaction Parameter,” Macromolecules, 41, 5773-5779

    , 2008
  12. Nedoma, A. J.; Robertson, M. L.; Wanakule, N. S.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Measurements of the Flory-Huggins Interaction Parameter Using a Series of Critical Binary Blends,” Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research, 47, 3551-3553

    , 2008
  13. Wanakule, N. S.; Nedoma, A. J.; Robertson, M. L.; Fang, Z.; Jackson, A.; Garetz, B. A.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Characterization of Micron-Sized Periodic Structures in Multicomponent Polymer Blends by Ultra-Small-Angle Neutron Scattering and Optical Microscopy,” Macromolecules, 41, 471-477

    , 2008
  14. Ruegg, M. L.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Scattering from Polymer Systems,” Invited submission, Macromolecular Engineering, Matyjaszewski, K.; Gnanou, Y.; Leibler, L., editors, Wiley-VCH

    , 2007
  15. Ruegg, M. L.; Reynolds, B. J.; Lin, M. Y.; Lohse, D. J.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Minimizing the Concentration of Diblock Copolymer Needed to Organize Blends of Weakly Segregated Polymers by Tuning Attractive and Repulsive Interactions,” Macromolecules, 40, 1207-1217

    , 2007
  16. Ruegg, M. L.; Reynolds, B. J.; Lin, M. Y.; Lohse, D. J.; Krishnamoorti, R.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Effect of Pressure on a Multicomponent A/B/A-C Polymer Blend with Attractive and Repulsive Interactions,” Macromolecules, 40, 355-365

    , 2007
  17. Reynolds, B. J.; Ruegg, M. L.; Balsara, N. P.; Radke, C. J.,

    “Relationship between Macroscopic and Microscopic Models of Surfactant Adsorption Dynamics at Fluid Interfaces,” Langmuir, 22, 9201-9207

    , 2006
  18. Reynolds, B. J.; Ruegg, M. L.; Mates, T. E.; Radke, C. J.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Diblock Copolymer Surfactant Transport across the Interface between Two Homopolymers,” Langmuir, 22, 9192-9200

    , 2006
  19. Ruegg, M. L.; Patel, A. J.; Narayanan, S.; Sandy, A. R.; Mochrie, S. G. J.; Watanabe, H.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Condensed Exponential Correlation Functions in Multicomponent Polymer Blends Measured by X-ray Photon Correlation Spectroscopy,” Macromolecules, 39, 8822-8831

    , 2006
  20. Ruegg, M. L.; Reynolds, B. J.; Lin, M. Y.; Lohse, D. J.; Balsara, N. P.,

    “Microphase and Macrophase Separation in Multicomponent A/B/A-C Polymer Blends with Attractive and Repulsive Interactions,” Macromolecules, 39, 1125-1134

    , 2006
  21. Reynolds, B. J.; Ruegg, M. L.; Mates, T. E.; Radke; C. J.; Balsara; N. P.,

    “Experimental and Theoretical Study of the Adsorption of a Diblock Copolymer to Interfaces between Two Homopolymers,” Macromolecules, 38, 3872-3882

    , 2005
  22. Reynolds, B. J.; Ruegg, M. L.; Balsara, N. P.; Radke, C. J.; Shaffer, T. D.; Lin, M. Y.; Shull, K. R.; Lohse, D. J.,

    “Thermodynamics of Polymer Blends Organized by Balanced Block Copolymer Surfactants Studied by Mean Field Theories and Scattering,” Macromolecules, 37, 7401-7417

    , 2004
  23. Ruegg, M. L.; Newstein, M. C.; Balsara, N. P.; Reynolds, B. J.,

    “Small-Angle Neutron Scattering from Nonuniformly Labeled Block Copolymers,” Macromolecules, 37, 1960-1968

    , 2004
  24. Lee, J. H.; Ruegg, M. L.; Balsara, N. P.; Zhu, Y. Q.; Gido, S. P.; Krishnamoorti, R.; Kim, M. H.,

    “Phase Behavior of Highly Immiscible Polymer Blends Stabilized by a Balanced Block Copolymer Surfactant,” Macromolecules, 36, 6537-6548

    , 2003