University of Florida, Gainesville
Center for Macromolecular Science and Engineering - University of Florida Polymer Science Program

2014 Butler Polymer Award Winners

Taylor W. Gaines
Taylor Gaines is a fourth year graduate student under the advisement of Professor Ken Wagener in the Department of Chemistry here at the University of Florida. A native of the Carolinas, Taylor received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of South Carolina 2011. Professor Brian Benicewicz served as Taylorís undergraduate research advisor, overseeing research in the area of proton exchange membrane fuel cells. Taylorís research was composed of polybenzimidazole synthesis, fuel device fabrication, and testing. At the University of Florida he is investigating sophisticated polymer structures containing precisely placed, polar oxidized sulfur functional groups on, and within, polyethylene backbones. His research also includes precision ionomers and microwave assisted ADMET polymerization. He has collaborated with students and groups at Kyoto University, Japan; the University of New South Wales, Australia; and the University of Pennsylvania. Taylor is an active member of the George and Josephine Butler Polymer Laboratory serving as a laboratory coordinator and previously serving as the Polymer Chemistry Characterization Laboratory coordinator. He continues to provide mentorship and training to other graduate students in the Butler Labs. Taylor plans to pursue a career in industry after his anticipated graduation in May, 2015.

William L. Brooks
"During my time in the Butler Polymer Research Laboratory, my research has focused on the synthesis and characterization of stimuli-responsive polymer nanostructures. The majority of my work has been focused around the use of boronic acid containing block copolymers. Boronic acids are able to form dynamic covalent bonds with cis-1,2 and 1,3 diols, like those found in saccharides. Under physiological conditions, our stimuli responsive, boronic acid-containing block copolymers form nanostructures, either micelles or vesicles, due to the hydrophobic nature of the incorporated boronic acid units. When the local glucose concentration increases, the glucose binds with the boronic acids, shifting an equilibrium towards the hydrophilic anionic boronate ester, causing the nanostructure to dissociate. By employing these nanostructures as carriers, we are able to deliver therapeutics, like insulin, while protecting those therapeutics, and then release them upon a predetermined trigger. This gives us an approach to mimic the body's own insulin delivery mechanism, whereby a trigger (elevated blood glucose levels) causes a feedback and release of insulin to reduce blood glucose levels. My research is built upon the work of several previous members of the Sumerlin research group, including Drs. Debashish Roy, Sudershan R. Gondi, and Jennifer Cambre. Their previous work has laid a great foundation for our continuing interest in boronic acid containing block copolymers. During my time in the Department of Chemistry at UF, I've made some lasting friendships, learned of some amazing new chemistry being done within our halls, and have furthered my own understanding of chemistry and materials. I look forward to my remaining time in the Sumerlin Group and at UF and to finishing my Ph.D. as a Florida Gator."

To view photos from the award ceremony, please click here.

Content updated: Septermber 26, 2014 and October 1, 2014

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