Krystyn J. Van Vliet




Professor Van Vliet's group studies material chemomechanics: material behavior at the interface of mechanics, chemistry, physics, and biology. She focuses on thermodynamically metastable surfaces and interfaces, in which stress-assisted chemical reaction kinetics are notoriously difficult to analyze via either experiment or simulation. The mechanisms of this coupling in cell-material interactions are incompletely understood, due to both biological complexity and lack of appropriate experimental and computational tools, but are key to design of materials that modulate cell adhesion for drug uptake and differentiation. Her long-term goal is to predict and modulate key functions of biological cells by drawing analogies to the coupled chemical/mechanical behavior of structurally simpler, nonbiological material interfaces and nanocomposites. These integrated experimental and computational efforts include three main thrusts: (1) chemomechanical mapping of nanocomposite surfaces including living cells; (2) mechanics of amorphous and viscoelastic surfaces and nanostructures; and (3) chemical kinetics in mechanically strained, nanoscale material interfaces. Her group has used this interdisciplinary application of mechanical and chemical forces to rapidly map environment-structure-property relations in engineered materials, and to predict the binding kinetics of individual molecules on living cells. These studies have shown that the stiffness of materials to which molecular ligands are tethered can directly affect kinetics of ligand-receptor interactions at cell surfaces.

Professor Van Vliet serves as the faculty supervisor of the DMSE Nanomechanical Technology Laboratory, has co-developed new undergraduate core classes, and has implemented new programs to retain underrepresented minority students.

Selected Publications

Walton, E.B., Lee, S., and Van Vliet, K.J. "Extending Bell's model: how force transducer stiffness affects measured unbinding force and kinetics of molecular complexes." Biophysical Journal 94 2621–2630 (2008). Lichter, J., Thompson, M.T., Delgadillo, M., Rubner, M.F., and Van Vliet, K.J. "Substrata mechanical stiffness can regulate adhesion of viable bacteria." Biomacromolecules 9 1571–1578 (2008). Krishnan, R., Oommen, B., Walton, E.B., Maloney, J.M., and Van Vliet, K.J. "Modeling and simulation of chemomechanics at the cell-matrix interface." Cell Adhesion and Migration 2 13–24 (2008). Maloney, J., Walton, E., Bruce, C., and Van Vliet, K.J. "Influence of finite thickness and stiffness on cellular adhesion-induced deformation of compliant substrata." Physical Review E 78: 041923 (2008). Constantinides, G., Kalcioglu, I., McFarland, M., Smith, J., and Van Vliet, K.J. " Probing mechanical properties of fully hydrated gels and biological tissues." Journal of Biomechanics 41:3285–3289 (2008). "Chemomechanical Mapping of Ligand-Receptor Binding Kinetics on Cells," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104: 9609–9614 (2007) (with others).

Related News

Faculty Highlight: Krystyn Van Vliet
With joint appointments in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and 
March 20, 2015
New technique allows scientists to identify populations of rare stem cells in bone marrow
In a new study that should make it easier to develop such stem-cell-based therapies, a team of researchers from MIT and the Singapore-MIT Alliance in Research and Technology (SMART) has identified
October 8, 2014
Stronger and Greener Cement
Analysis of material's molecular structure leads to a new formula that could cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
September 25, 2014
Probing the surface of pyrite
Common mineral gets first detailed examination of its surface electronic properties, thanks to team of MIT researchers.
October 9, 2013
MIT News Office profiles Prof. Van Vliet
Exploring the inner workings of materials: From concrete to cancer cells, Van Vliet brings an engineer’s mindset to the study of biology and materials.
November 2, 2011
Re-inventing Concrete
The Concrete Sustainability Hub was founded at MIT in 2009; the
October 14, 2011
Prof. Krystyn Van Vliet and Chemomechanical Interactions at the Nanoscale September 21, 2011
A new approach to scratch resistance August 17, 2011
DMSE Faculty use new methods to understand old materials
A computational approach to materials science and engineering could bring new properties even to familiar substances such as concrete and steel.
October 28, 2009

Related Events

DMSE faculty participate in ILP conference
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 8:00am to Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 5:00pm