Welcome to Softbites!

Softbites brings you digestible summaries of the latest research in soft matter.

If you have a soft spot for the science of bubbles, liquid crystals and other squishy materials you might have heard of soft matter! If you have not, this branch of physics is a fascinating interdisciplinary field studying various kinds of materials from gels to biological systems. They all share the fact that they are soft, which means they are not exactly solid nor liquid. For instance, if you poke a bit of foam, it will resist like a solid at short times, but it will flow at longer times.

Read our posts to find out more about soft matter!

Recent posts

Check out our latest posts!

We write about colloids, gels, biomechanics and many other squishy subjects! We are inspired by the most recent papers and the classics as well.

Biological Materials at SICB 2019

From fire ants to spider silk, tooth enamel to lizard scales, and chemistry to computer science, there are lots of opportunities for soft-matter scientists to study biological questions!

The key to fighting cancer: be flexible

In my previous post on soft nanoparticles, you were introduced to polymer-based nanoparticles that could be used in biomedical applications, one of which is cancer therapy. These nanoparticles have a range of useful properties for cancer treatments, including their spherical shape and small size (~100 nm), both of which are similar to exosomes, small globules that are used in nature for transferring proteins between cells. Since cells naturally absorb exosomes, artificial particles with this size and shape should also be easy for cells to absorb, which means these particles could be used to deliver drugs into cells. While this idea sounds promising, it hasn’t worked out in practice —  when drug-loaded polymer-based nanoparticles were injected into a tumor, subsequent tests showed that less than 1% of the injected dose entered the cancer cells. Since these particles were the correct size and shape, why didn’t they get inside the target cells?

The Peter Parker cell

“USE YOUR LEGS!” That’s what might have been yelled at you the first time you went climbing. We are so used to walking or running that we don’t even think about how we do it. But when we face a new environment, such as a steep slope, we realize that finding the best strategy to move through space is not so easy. Now, imagine you are as small as few dozens of microns, without legs or arms, and you live in a viscous fluid. How would you move? This is the question biologists who are interested in cell movements have been trying to solve. By observing cells under a microscope, they saw that depending on their type or their environment, cells exhibit a wide variety of motion strategies. However, one thing never changes: cells need to exert forces on their environment to move. To do so, some kinds of cells create structures called focal adhesions. These structures are made up of several proteins, assembled on the outside of the cell. Like tiny bits of double-sided tape, their purpose is to stick the cell to whatever is nearby (see Figure 1). In slightly more technical language, focal adhesions connect the molecular skeleton of the cell to a substrate.

Who are we?

Softbites is run by a group of young scientists who want to attract a wider audience to the beautiful world of soft matter.

We are Ph.D. students and postdocs from all over the world. Writing for Softbites is a way of sharing our passion for soft matter. We would especially love to attract younger students to research by explaining fascinating research papers, which are often technical and intimidating for people outside the field.

Meet the team!

Annie Stephenson

Harvard University, Cambridge

Annie Stephenson
Managing editor

Read Annie’s recent posts

Author since: 9/2017

Arash Manafirad

UMass, Amherst

Arash Manafirad
Recruiting manager & Webmaster

Read Arash’s recent posts

Author since: 9/2017

Arthur Michaut

Harvard Medical School, Boston

Arthur Michaut
Founder & Webmaster

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Author since: 9/2017

Colm Kelleher

Harvard University, Cambridge

Colm Kelleher
Managing editor

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Author since: 9/2017

Foteini Delisavva

Charles University, Prague

Foteini Delisavva
Publicity manager

Read Foteini’s recent posts

Author since: 1/2018

Gilad Kaufman

Yale University, New Haven

Gilad Kaufman
Reviewer

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Author since: 9/2017

Rob Campbell

OIST, Onna-son

Rob Campbell
Style manager

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Author since: 3/2018

Sanja

Forschungszentrum, Jülich

Sanja
Publicity manager

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Author since: 2/2018

Meet the authors!

If you fell in love with a specific field of research while you were reading some posts on Softbites, feel free to get in touch with the author to ask more questions.

Our official Softbites authors, who monthly write for us:

Danny Seara

Yale University, New Haven

Danny Seara
Also Style manager!

Read Danny’s recent posts

Author since: 2/2018

Emily Riley

DTU, Copenhagen

Emily Riley

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Author since: 3/2018

Olga Shishkov

Georgia Tech, Atlanta

Olga Shishkov

Read Olga’s recent posts

Author since: 1/2018

Our guest Softbites authors, who occasionally write for us:

Christine Middleton

New York University, New York City

Christine Middleton

Read Christine’s recent posts

Author since: 1/2018

Koushik S.

Raman Research Institute, Bangalore

Koushik S.

Read Koushik’s recent posts

Author since: 2/2018

Alex Klotz

MIT, Cambridge

Alex Klotz

Read Alex’s recent posts

Author since: 2/2018

Debayan

Center for Nanoscience, Bangalore

Debayan

Read Debayan’s recent posts

Author since: 3/2018

Adam Fortais

McMaster University, Hamilton

Adam Fortais

Read Adam’s recent posts

Author since: 5/2018

Kyle Baldwin

Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen

Kyle Baldwin

Read Kyle’s recent posts

Author since: 5/2018

Bill K. Wheatle

University of Texas, Austin

Bill K. Wheatle

Read Bill’s recent posts

Author since: 8/2018

Matthieu Martin

Université Grenoble Alpes, France

Matthieu Martin

Read Matthieu’s recent posts

Author since: 9/2018

Mauricio Gomez

CSU Fullerton

Mauricio Gomez

Read Mauricio’s recent posts

Author since: 9/2018

Youngah (Karen) Kwon

Columbia University, New York

Youngah (Karen) Kwon

Read Karen’s recent posts

Author since: 12/2018

Gregory Smith

Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Gregory Smith

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Author since: 1/2019

 Where are we from?

Become a writer

If you want to become a Softbites writer, or you just want to get in touch with us, please reach out!

 

 

Our friends

We are proud to be part of the bites family.

The eldest is Astrobites which has been writing about astrophysics since 2010. The concept has been extended to other fields of science through sister websites listed below. Have a look if you’re interested!

astrobites

chembites

evobites

geoscibites

oceanbites

particlebites

Thanks to The Lutetium Project!

Most of the beautiful pictures and videos illustrating this website have been kindly provided by our friends from the Lutetium Project. They run a YouTube channel featuring the connections between art and soft matter. You MUST check them out! Especially this video, which most of the footages illustrating this website have been extracted from.