Jonathan Wilker

Jonathan Wilker Profile Picture

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Materials Engineering
Ph.D., 1996, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Chemical Biology

Active Mentor - currently hosting PULSe students for laboratory rotations and recruiting PULSe students into the laboratory; serves on preliminary exam committees

Current Research Interests:

Visit our research group web site here:

Biological Materials from the Oceans

We are exploring how biological systems produce materials. Our focus is upon marine biomaterials such as mussel adhesives, barnacle cements, and oyster reef structures. Efforts include characterizing marine biological materials, designing synthetic mimics, and developing biomedical applications such as surgical adhesives.

In the case of mussel adhesive we know that the material is generated by cross-linking a series of proteins into the final, cured matrix. We are using live animals, extracted protein, and peptide models to characterize formation of this material and determine the bonding contained within. For other organisms such as barnacles and oysters we are working to extract and characterize the protein components of these materials. Microscopy also helps to shed light on how the animals adhere.

With characterization insights in hand we can then develop synthetic polymer mimics of these biological materials. Such new classes of polymers cross-link in a manner analogous to the proteins. We have achieved strong adhesion using these polymers, with bonding abilities comparable to commercial “super” glues. Bioinspired polymers make good candidates for some of the most in-demand biomedical materials. At the moment there are no surgical adhesives available that are simultaneously wet setting, strong bonding, and non-toxic. Marine biology may have already solved this problem, hence the exploration of these materials for biomedical applications. We are using our new bioinspired materials to bond together both soft and hard substrates such as skin and bone as part of efforts to develop the next class of biomedical adhesives.

Selected Publications:

"Marine Bioinorganic Materials: Mussels Pumping Iron” Jonathan J. Wilker Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, 2010, Volume 14, pages 276-283

"A Method for Measuring Adhesion Strength of Marine Mussels" Jeremy R. Burkett, Jessica L. Wojtas, Joshua L. Cloud, and Jonathan J. Wilker Journal of Adhesion , 2009, Volume 85, pages 601 - 615

"Bulk Adhesive Strength of Recombinant Mussel Adhesive Protein" Hyung Joon Cha, Dong Soo Hwang, Seonghye Lim, James D. White, Cristina R. Matos-Perez and Jonathan J. Wilker Biofouling, 2009, Volume 25, pages 99 - 107

"Inkjet Printing of Bioadhesives" Anand Doraiswamy, Timothy M. Dunaway, Jonathan J. Wilker, and Roger J. Narayan Biomaterials, 2009, Volume 89B, pages 28 - 35

"Oxidative Iron Species and Ocean Challenges: A Perspective" Daniel Rittschof,Cecilia Bonaventura, Jonathan J. Wilker, and CL Van Dover Biofouling, 2008 Volume 24, pages 173-175

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