Wyatt Shields

PhD, Biomedical Engineering, 2016
Duke University, Durham, NC

B.S., Biomedical Engineering, 2011
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Research Focus: Assembly and actuation of anisotropic particles

My research explores the fundamental and applied aspects of self-propelling particles and self-reconfiguring particles systems. By leveraging the precision and repeatability of lithographic tools, we have engineered a new class of particles with well-defined shape, size and polarizability. Using this capability, I am working to understand and control their behavior in response to electric and magnetic fields through two main research foci:

1. Sequence-encoded assemblies of magnetically actuating patchy microcubes, or “microbots”.

Polymer microcubes with one face coated with a magnetic film can assemble into chains that reversibly actuate via a toggling magnetic field. Working with members of the Velev group, my goals are to (i) investigate the behavioral properties of these ensembles, (ii) explore their utility to capture and transport microscale entities, e.g., cells, (iii) evaluate the precision of these assemblies to serve as metrological tools for probing the properties of fluids and (iv) self-propulsion of these assemblies in non-Newtonian fluids.

2. Self-spinning and self-propelling active particles of non-spherical shape.

We have developed tile-like particles possessing multiple arms that display small, gold patches on their tips, allowing them to spin at controlled speeds and in controlled directions. My goals are to work with members of the Velev group to (i) develop a robust understanding for what drives the motion of these particles in fluids and (ii) engineer the properties of these particles and the environment to direct the assembly of these particles into advanced materials, e.g., reversibly percolating colloidal networks.