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Dr Maurits de Planque 

Life Sciences Interface Associate Professor

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Dr Maurits de Planque is part of the Institute for Life Sciences at the University of Southampton.

As Life Sciences Interface Associate Professor in ECS my main research interests are bionanoscience and bionanotechnology, including biosensors and ion channel nanopores. Before I came to Southampton I worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Melbourne and in Oxford, after obtaining a PhD in biophysics and a first degree in (bio)chemistry in Utrecht. I routinely collaborate with a wide range of scientists and engineers, from theoreticians to molecular biologists and clean room experts. I host engineers who are interested in biomedical applications of nanotechnology as well as bioscientists who are keen to gain experience with nano- and microfabrication or high-resolution microscopies. Please have a look at the Research & Projects link for a selection of current projects.

Research interests

I am interested in the interface between the material sciences and the life sciences, a relatively new area that is often referred to as bionanoscience or bionanotechnology when nanofabricated devices are involved. The general aim is to combine the best features of engineered materials, such as cheap and reproducible mass production, with the highly specific biomolecules that are able, for example, to detect the onset of complex diseases before symptoms emerge. My projects include microscale protein expression and functional characterization and microfluidic traps to visualize labelling of white blood cells for individual cells, and collaborations such as the development of disposable nanowire field effect transistors as biosensors for viral infection.

The interaction between nano/microfabricated materials and biomolecules is at the heart of bionanoscience and I am not only interested in the functional integration of nanodevices and biomolecules for biosensor development, but also in the potential negative effect of nanoparticles on the human body. For this nanotoxicology research, I use a model system that mimics a cell membrane to assess whether nanoparticles such as carbon nanotubes or silica nanospheres can damage biological membranes. In a synthetic biology approach, the same technology is also used to build an artificial neural network.

All these projects -which are suitable for engineers and bioscientists alike- are performed in close collaboration with fabrication experts in the Nano Group of ECS, and with scientists in Biological Sciences, Chemistry, and Medicine. To visualize or characterize the interactions between nanomaterials and biomolecules, I manage a wide range of state-of-the art instruments, including a confocal fluorescence microscope, an environmental scanning electron microscope and a zetasizer. I have access to all the facilities of the Southampton Nanofabrication Centre and am also involved with the Institute for Life Sciences. Most of my people work in the Hybrid Biodevices laboratories (web site under construction) located in the Life Sciences building, and in the rapid prototyping clean room and measurement labs, located in the main Electronics complex.

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Dr Maurits de Planque
University of Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 59/4203

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