Conférence scientifique

Derk Joester (Northwestern University, Chicago) 
Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering


Minerva Fellow Structural Biology, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel

Postdoctoral Fellow Structural Biology, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel

Ph.D. Chemistry, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

M.Sc. Chemistry, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Fulbright Scholar Chemistry, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

B.A. Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

Research Interests

For more than 500 million years, “simple” sea urchins have used fiber-reinforced gradient ceramic materials to build self-sharpening teeth. This may be astonishing; it is, however, by no means unique. Organisms from all domains make use of the materials properties of crystalline and amorphous solids (e.g. inorganic minerals) to provide physical integrity and sense gravity, to guide light and even perceive the earth’s magnetic field.
Evolutionary optimization has led to organic-inorganic composite structures of amazing complexity, ordered across many levels of hierarchy and on length scales between the nano- and the macro scale. One very impressive feature of biominerals is that the organisms freely sculpt single-crystalline material into smoothly and continuously curving shapes, seemingly overriding the thermodynamic control of crystal morphology.
My group is driven by the desire to understand not only the design, i.e. the structure and functional organization of biominerals, but also their integrated synthesis. On a cellular level, these two, design and its execution, are inextricably linked. Our highly interdisciplinary approach reflects this complexity and rests on both the engineering of biomaterials synthesis in cell culture and the biologically inspired synthetic (re)construction of artificial mineralizing systems. In this way, we hope to find ways to create new materials of functional and architectural sophistication that rival that of biominerals. Following our recent discovery of a highly soluble Mg-rich intergranular film in vertebrate tooth enamel, we embarked on an investigation into its role in tooth decay and bioinspired approaches to prevent caries. Research in the Joester group therefore includes (bio)synthesis, functional properties, and degradation of biominerals. 

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