27 July, 2021

Chaos And Laptops

Surya Mallapragada, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering, Iowa State University

Chaos And Laptops
For a scientist, Surya Mallapragada seems surprisingly whimsical. Though the 30-year-old chemical engineer works in areas that are almost deadly serious, her more fanciful nature shows through in other realms. Like her cats. They’re christened according to their character: "Chaos likes to bring the house down and Laptop loves to sit on people’s laps," she says.

Mallapragada works in polymers, not the kinds used for making plastic bags but molecules with applications in medicine. Her lab at the Iowa State University investigates the use of nanoscale molecules in delivering drugs, tissue rehabilitation and gene therapy. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, about the size of ten carbon atoms.)

Mallapragada’s research involves making biodegradable vessels that would travel into a human body to deliver, say, hormones or proteins, or medication. One innovation has been to make the vessels from smart polymers, plastics that only give up their payload in response to specific criteria. The polymers could also be used for gene therapy "in any disorder linked to...

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