• Matt_s Swirls

R. Kōnane Bay

I was born and raised on the island of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi until I was eleven years old and then spent the latter part of my childhood in Washington state before moving for school across the country. I graduated from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 2014 with a B.S. in Materials Engineering. Throughout my undergraduate career, I worked in many different soft matter and polymer research labs, including through NSF REU programs at RPI, Brandeis, and Clemson University. I graduated during the fall semester from RPI, which afforded me the opportunity before starting graduate school to pursue research abroad in Prof. Marleen Kamperman’s lab at Wageningen University in the Netherlands on the synthesis of bioinspired polymer adhesives.

From my diverse set of research experiences in soft matter and polymers, I knew I wanted to pursue a research career in polymers. Therefore, I chose to attend PSE for my Ph.D. due to the number of exciting research opportunities in the department and the small size (16 students) of my entering class. During my time at PSE, I made many lifelong friends with students across the different class years and groups. I still talk with many of my fellow PSE alumni and run into many at conferences. Outside of Conte, I played on the Amherst summer softball league with classmates, was on a three-person PSE trivia team at Amherst brewing company (one time, we won a Yeti cooler!), and played volleyball.

On the research side, I joined the research group of Prof. Al Crosby, where my research focused on the mechanics of ultrathin glassy polymer films, which included developing a method to measure the full stress-strain response of freestanding polymer films. During my time in the Crosby group, I had the opportunity to collaborate with many international visiting researchers, present my work to industry (through CUMIRP/PSE Polymer Events), and coordinate the Crosby group outreach efforts, which allowed me to see how polymer research can be useful in many different contexts. Overall, I found my time at PSE to be highly rewarding, from the research to the friends I made, and this is one of the main reasons I am in an academic career now.

After completing my Ph.D., I received the Princeton Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work with Prof. Sujit Datta on 3D printing bacteria to understand how biofilms grow and move in complex environments. I am now a faculty member in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at the University of Colorado Boulder and affiliated faculty with their Materials Science and Engineering Program. I currently lead a research group focused on the mechanics of engineered living and synthetic polymers using the core polymer fundamentals that I learned at PSE.