The global production of plastics is approaching 400 million metric tons per year, affecting the health of future generations and causing environmental impact that last hundreds of years. Novel smart materials and medicines with tailored properties are essential to meet the evolving requirements in healthcare and sustainability.
Dr Zuowei Wang's interdisciplinary research, using mathematical modelling and computer simulations of biological and synthetic systems, is providing valuable insights for experimental techniques and designs to address this challenge.
Zuowei focuses on how the raw polymer materials behave under various processing conditions and uses his findings to improve existing, or design new plastic manufacturing techniques.
“Our research group, Complex Fluids and Theoretical Polymer Physics, has carried out extensive multiscale studies to understand and predict the structural, dynamic and mechanical behaviours of polymers under different flow conditions. Our theories can be applied to guide the development of economical and sustainable processing technologies to reduce the environmental impact of plastic manufacturing.”
Reducing environmental impact
The development of recyclable polymer materials is another crucial element of Zuowei’s research, contributing to alleviating the environmental impact caused by white pollution. By applying a combined computer simulation and mathematical modelling approach, Zuowei’s findings impact the design of novel sustainable polymers, as well as new smart materials, such as self-healing, stimuli-sensitive and shape-memory materials, which have numerous practical applications.
Zuowei’s research also extends to healthcare, through identifying key chemical features of peptides to design innovative antimicrobial and antivirus drugs with high efficiency.
“I work with colleagues in Mathematics and Chemistry to develop and apply machine learning methods, combined with computer simulations at the molecular level, to gain a microscopic understanding of why peptides with anti-microbial features can work efficiently in penetrating the membranes of bacteria in order to kill them.”
Incorporating research into teaching
Zuowei’s teaching of mathematical modelling enables students to develop problem-solving and independent research skills by applying mathematical knowledge to solve a broad range of real-world problems across scientific, engineering and economical fields. He has also worked alongside students as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, giving students the opportunity to get involved in real-world research that seeks to address global challenges.