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.

Discovery of Liquid Crystals in Short DNA

Ever since its discovery, scientists have known that the DNA molecule is present in every life form. It carries the genetic information of all living organisms and many viruses. Today, however, we will strip DNA of its genetic importance and look at it from a different perspective. We will discuss why DNA attracts attention even outside of the biological context: What is the connection between DNA and liquid crystals? What are end-to-end stacking interactions and why are they important? If you want to get answers on these questions (and many more), keep reading.

Knotty DNA

Try taking out your earphones from your pocket and, in all probability, you’ll find knots and entanglements between the ends. As it turns out, this knotting effect is not limited to macroscopic objects, but occurs on the nanoscale as well. A DNA molecule that carries the genetic information of a living organism is actually a long string-like polymer, so you can imagine that it would also get tangled up just like the cords of your earphones. In today’s paper, Calin Plesa and his colleagues at TU Delft are able to observe and measure these knots in DNA strands and uncover behaviour which has not been observed before.

Soft nanoparticles: when polymers meet soap

For more than four decades, scientists have been investigating the properties of small objects dispersed in solutions. Some of these objects – produced in laboratories – are the so called soft nanoparticles. The name soft comes from the fact that these particles are partly solid and partly liquid. One of the scientists’ aims is to design nanoparticles that will be used as carriers of medical compounds (like drugs, DNA segments, and enzymes). The nanoparticles’ role will be to protect this cargo from partial degradation through the human body until reaching the specific target cells where the nanoparticles’ structure will break up and the useful compounds will be released. This technology will allow for disease treatments using smaller amounts of drugs, which will mean fewer side effects for the patients.

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 based in the United States and the United Kingdom. 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 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.

 

Annie Stephenson
Harvard University

Annie Stephenson

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Author since: 9/2017

Arash Manafirad
UMASS Amherst

Arash Manafirad

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Author since: 9/2017

Arthur Michaut
Harvard Medical School

Arthur Michaut

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Author since: 9/2017

Christine Middleton
New York University

Christine Middleton

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Author since: 1/2018

Colm Kelleher
Harvard University

Colm Kelleher

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Author since: 9/2017

Gilad Kaufman
Yale University

Gilad Kaufman

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Author since: 9/2017

Olga Shishkov
Georgia Tech

Olga Shishkov

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Author since: 1/2018

Foteini Delisavva
Charles University, Prague

Foteini Delisavva

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Author since: 1/2018

Koushik S.
Raman Research Institute, Bangalore

Koushik S.

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Author since: 2/2018

Sanja
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany

Sanja

Read Sanja’s recent posts
Author since: 2/2018

Become a writer

If you want to write for Softbites, please reach out to us!

 

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.