Hot proteins on cool crystals: crystal growth modulation by ice-binding proteins

Ilja Voets
Eindhoven University of Technology

Ice-binding proteins (IBP) facilitate survival under extreme conditions in diverse life forms. IBPs in polar fishes block further growth of internalized environmental ice and inhibit ice recrystallization of accumulated internal crystals. Algae use IBPs to structure ice, while ice adhesion is critical for the Antarctic bacterium Marinomonas primoryensis. Successful translation of this natural cryoprotective ability into man-made materials holds great promise but is still in its infancy. In this talk I will discuss recent results on the functioning of native ice-binding proteins and their synthetic analogues, highlighting how fundamental studies can support the development of cheap, bio-inspired materials for various applications.

Ilja Voets received an MSc degree in Molecular Sciences from Wageningen University in 2004 and a PhD degree from the same university in 2008 for her research in the field of colloid science on the electrostatically driven co-assembly of block copolymers. After a postdoctoral appointment on the phase behavior of concentrated protein mixtures at the Adolphe Merkle Institute of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, Voets joined the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems (ICMS) at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in 2011 to start her independent research group on self-organized and bioinspired soft matter. She was appointed associate professor at TU/e in 2015 and full professor in Self-organizing Soft Matter in 2018. The research group of Voets focuses on self-assembly processes in (biological) soft matter to gain fundamental insights to be translated ultimately into rational design strategies for novel functional nanostructured materials. Key research interests include antifreeze proteins, supramolecular colloids, sequence-controlled polyelectrolytes, and complex coacervate core micelles studied by a suite of experimental techniques including small angle X-ray scattering and single-molecule localization microscopy. Voets has co-authored 82 papers and 3 book chapters (h-index = 24; 1631 citations) and received several (inter)national and prestigious personal grants, including the KNCV Polymer Prize, the Otto Kratky Award, VENI/VIDI grants from NWO and an ERC starting grant from the European Research Council for her work in the areas of soft matter, biophysics and physical chemistry.

Prof. dr. ir. Ilja Voets

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