Meet our author… Matthew Gibson

Matthew Gibson is a chemist working at the University of Warwick, UK. His research interests focus on the design of macromolecular structures which can interface with biological systems, and consequently all the work in his group is cross-disciplinary. Matthew took time out from his work to talk to ChemComm…  
What initially inspired you to become a scientist?
I was always interested in the natural world, but really only became interested in chemistry during my A-levels. I had two very enthusiastic chemistry teachers who strongly encouraged me. We were able to undertake an extended lab project, and I found myself enjoying the challenge. At university I found myself drawn to the creativity of synthesis and how creative solutions can be used to gain fundamental understanding and innovative solutions.   

What was your motivation behind the work described in your ChemComm article?
In my group, we are very interested in interfacing materials with biological systems. A key challenge is making these materials ‘smarter’, so that they have triggerable/programmable activity, but also to introduce degradability. A major hurdle to this is that the synthetic methodologies to obtain degradable materials are not tolerant to introducing functional groups e.g. biological ligands. Conversely, controlled radical polymerisations are tolerant of most functional groups, but these polymers are inherently non-degradable. To overcome these limitations we developed a methodology to introduce bioreducible (-SS-) linkages into polymers derived from controlled radical polymerisation. We demonstrated that these polymers have interesting thermoresponsive behaviour, which can be ‘switched off’ by degradation.

Why did you choose ChemComm to publish your work?
I felt that both the synthetic methodology and also the applications of the materials we describe in the article would be of interest to readers with both chemistry and bioscience backgrounds. Considering the broad readership of ChemComm and the rapid publication times, it was really the best place to disseminate this work.

Where do you see your research heading next?
We are now extending the technology from our recent ChemComm paper to develop increasingly complex materials which have triggerable interactions with cell membranes. We are broadening the scope of the monomers used and also undertaking biological studies.

What do enjoy doing in your spare time?
Since I lived in Switzerland for 3 years, skiing and alpine hiking are always top of my list! Otherwise, reading a good book or heading to the movies.

If you could not be a scientist, but could be anything else, what would you be?
It would be something outdoor such as a national park warden, or alternatively running a pub/brewery – in an ideal world, I’d combine the two.

Matthew has recently published two communications in ChemComm touching on the degradable thermoresponsive polymers described here and another on gold and micelle-based polymer nanoparticles.

Degradable thermoresponsive polymers which display redox-responsive LCST Behaviour
Daniel J. Phillips and Matthew I. Gibson
Chem. Commun., 2012, 48, 1054-1056

The critical importance of size on thermoresponsive nanoparticle transition temperatures: gold and micelle-based polymer nanoparticles
Nga Sze Ieong, Konstantinos Brebis, Laura E. Daniel, Rachel K. O’Reilly and Matthew I. Gibson
Chem. Commun., 2011, 47, 11627-11629

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