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I study how lipid monolayers at the air-water interface collapse under compression

Lipid monolayers have been studied to better understand lipid response to mechanical forces and are biologically relevant in the ears, the eyes, and especially the lungs, where lateral compression of a lipid/protein monolayer at the air-water interface is a part of every breath. Simpler lipid compositions can be utilized as models to characterize how lipid monolayers respond to compression and undergo loss of mechanical stability and collapse. By changing composition and temperature, one can also control the material properties of the monolayer such as fluidity, compressibility, and resistance to shear. My overarching question is this: What material or structural characteristics of a monolayer cause it to exhibit a specific collapse mode and can this be generalized and modeled independent of composition? I combine experimental lipid monolayer research (through fluorescence and atomic force microscopy conducted in the Lee Lab) with computational lipid monolayer modeling (through finite element simulations of elastic continuum mechanics in the Pocivavsek Lab), to characterize the morphology and mechanical stability of lipid monolayers undergoing collapse.