Faculty Name

Michelle Gaines, Ph.D.


Assistant Professor


Chemistry and Biochemistry



Office Location

Albro-Falconer-Manley Science Center 378


Ph.D., North Carolina State University
B.S., Michigan State University


Michelle Gaines, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Spelman College. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering & Biomolecular Engineering at Michigan State University in 2003, and she earned her Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering at North Carolina State University in 2008. Her dissertation research was on the interfacial chemistry of nanoparticles and block copolymer materials. Gaines has a rich, interdisciplinary research background in polymer materials chemistry, nanocomposite interfacial behavior, inorganic molecular chemistry, electronic carbon-based nanomaterials, and biophysics of collective cell behavior. She is using this expertise, developed during her postdocs, to explore her research interests.

Gaines’ research is themed around studying the interfacial properties of soft materials. Our objective is to measure energy dissipation within thermo-responsive colloidal microgel particle systems and block copolymer materials, to develop next-generation separators in lithium-ion batteries and self-actuating biosensorsThe Gaines lab also explores the interfacial chemistry between cells and hydrogels on biological interfaces, as a means to develop a synthetic 3D culture microenvironment to control cell behavior. The aim is to gain a sophisticated understanding on how cells respond to specific controlled variances in the material properties of the extracellular matrix, to predict strategies to issue control over cell behavior in physiological systems. Our goals are achieved by marrying Polymer Synthesis, Materials Science, Cell Biology & Spectroscopy.

Gaines plans to develop a new educational venture called "Hair Academy." She envisions that this new interdisciplinary program will allow students and faculty to consider how phenotypic differences in hair produce different material properties. The program will add to Spelman College’s legacy of being a global leader in producing culturally inclusive thought-leaders.

Courses Taught

General Chemistry CHE 111
General Chemistry CHE 112
Physical Chemistry Lab CHE 346L
Inorganic Chemistry CHE 421
Inorganic Chemistry Lab CHE 421L

Research Interests

Soft materials. Interfacial chemistry. Biomolecular materials. Polymer microgel particles. Self-actuating polymers. Organic electronics. Block copolymers. Self-assembly. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). Hydrogels. Biophysics of epithelial cell monolayers. Inorganic nanomaterials. Material properties of hair.


Douglas, A.M.; Fragkopoulos, A.; Gaines, M.K.; Lyon, L.A.; Barker, T.H.; and Fernandez-Nieves, A.; “Dynamic Assembly of Ultrasoft Colloidal Networks Enables Cell Invasion Within Nanoporous Fibrillar Polymers,”
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2017 114 (5): 885-890.

Gaines, M.K., Smith, S.D., Samseth, J., Khan, S.A., and Spontak, R.J.,"Nanoparticle Network Formation in Nanostructured and Disordered Block Copolymer Matrices," Nanoscale Res. Lett. 2010 5, 1712-1718.

Gozen, A.O.; Gaines, M. K.; Hamersky, M. W.; Maniadis, P.; Rasmussen, K. Ø.; Smith, S. D.; Spontak, R. J. “Controlling the Phase Behavior of Block Copolymers Via Sequential Block Growth,” Polymer 2010 51, 5304-5308.

Gaines M.K.; Smith S.D., Samseth J.; Bockstaller M.R.; Thompson R.B.; Rasmussen, K. Ø.; Spontak R. J.; Nanoparticle-regulated phase behavior of ordered block copolymers. Soft matter 2008 4,1609-1612.