It is difficult to imagine human society without polymers—from biomacromolecules that form the basics of life, to synthetic polymers that have revolutionized our daily life since their inception in the late 19th century. While biomacromolecules seem to possess a greater level of functional complexity compared to synthetic polymers, they share similar macromolecular features and their behaviors are thus governed by the same sets of rules in polymer physics.
As our generation of polymer scientists are tasked to develop superior polymeric materials to meet the rapidly increasing demands of new applications, the Gu Lab seeks to explore the upper limit of the level of complexity that can be achieved in synthetic macromolecular systems. By applying a unified view on molecules—of any forms—that have macromolecular origins, we combine organic/polymer synthesis, biomacromolecular engineering, and polymer physics to design and synthesize macromolecular systems/materials that possess life-like features. Through this approach that we termed as macromolecular biomimicry, we aim to gain new knowledge about polymers and living matter, and more importantly, to develop macromolecular systems that mimic, interface, and even surpass those found in biological systems, ultimately providing new solutions to challenges associated with biotechnology, healthcare, sustainability, and autonomous materials.
In the current stage, we are interested in but are not limited to the following three research questions:
How can we design synthetic polymers to achieve biomacromolecule-like functions?
How can we use synthetic chemistry to empower biomacromolecules with new functions?
At the material level, how can we achieve organic materials that mimic or even surpass the complexity of biological systems?