Molecular Rheology Group Members

Kiran Kumari

Ph.D. student

Kiran Kumari graduated with a M.Tech in Chemical Engineering from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, in 2016. She is a student at the IITB-Monash Research Academy, where she is co-supervised by Professor Ranjith Padinhateeri. Her Ph.D. is on "Computing the dynamics of Chromatin folding".

Kailasham Ramalingam

Ph.D. student

Kailasham Ramalingam graduated with a Master of Science in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, in 2015. After working in a clean energy start-up company based in IIT Bombay for 6 months, he joined the IITB-Monash Research Academy as a student, where he is co-supervised by Professor Rajarshi Chakrabarti. His Ph.D. is on the "Theoretical and computational study of polymers in the semi-dilute regime in the presence of shear flow, crowding and internal viscosity".

Aritra Santra

Ph.D. student

Aritra Santra has a Masters degree in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. After completing his degree and before coming to Monash, he worked as a Technologist at the Process Technology Group, Tata Steel Ltd. His Ph.D. is on "Sticky Polymers in Flow: Relationship of Microscopic Topology and Dynamics to Macroscopic Viscoelasticity".

Chamath Soysa

Ph.D. student

Chamath Soysa has a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Chemical Engineering from Monash University. His Ph.D. research involves the use of scaling theory and Brownian dynamics simulations to understand the statics and dynamics of polyelectrolyte solutions.

Kiran Kumari

Ph.D. student

Kiran Kumari graduated with a M.Tech in Chemical Engineering from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, in 2016. She is a student at the IITB-Monash Research Academy, where she is co-supervised by Professor Ranjith Padinhateeri. Her Ph.D. is on "Computing the dynamics of Chromatin folding".

Kailasham Ramalingam

Ph.D. student

Kailasham Ramalingam graduated with a Master of Science in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, USA in 2015. After working in a clean energy start-up company based in IIT Bombay for 6 months, he joined the IITB-Monash Research Academy as a student, where he is co-supervised by Professor Rajarshi Chakrabarti. His Ph.D. is on the "Theoretical and computational study of polymers in the semi-dilute regime in the presence of shear flow, crowding and internal viscosity".

Aritra Santra

Ph.D. student

Aritra Santra has a Masters degree in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. After completing his degree and before coming to Monash, he worked as a Technologist at the Process Technology Group, Tata Steel Ltd. His Ph.D. is on "Sticky Polymers in Flow: Relationship of Microscopic Topology and Dynamics to Macroscopic Viscoelasticity".

Chamath Soysa

Ph.D. student

Chamath Soysa has a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Chemical Engineering from Monash University. His Ph.D. research involves the use of scaling theory and Brownian dynamics simulations to understand the statics and dynamics of polyelectrolyte solutions.

Join the group!

We are looking for people who are outstanding, and highly motivated with a background in a field related to our research interests. Monash University offers scholarships to cover fees and living expenses to highly qualified students applying for a Ph.D. Interested students in India can also apply to the IITB-Monash Research Academy, which offers scholarships to talented students. Ph.D. students in this program receive a dual-badged degree from IIT Bombay and Monash University.

Research Projects

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    Rheology of Polymer Solutions

    The use of polymer solutions in the intermediate stages of various modern processes makes the understanding of the dynamics of polymer solutions essential for maximising the efficiency of these processes. Small amounts of polymer are known to reduce the drag experienced by bodies in turbulent flows, and significantly change the distribution of drop sizes in spraying and atomisation operations. There are also a number of contexts involving polymer solutions, such as in the spinning of nanofibres or in ink jet printing, where in order to achieve the most optimal outcome, the concentration of polymers must not be too dilute or too concentrated, but somewhere in between. It is vitally important to unravel the fundamental physics that governs the behaviour of polymer solutions across the range of concentrations in the presence of a flow field.

    In this project, the dynamics of polymer solutions will be investigated through theory, computer simulations and experimental characterization, using a novel computational algorithm and the filament stretching rheometer. The experiments will provide an understanding of the linear and non-linear viscoelastic behaviour of polymer solutions, spanning a range of concentrations and molecular weights, which will allow a unique and unrivalled detailed study of these systems. The correlation of molecular simulations with rheology measurements will enable a much clearer understanding of the connection between microscopic physical mechanisms and macroscopic flow properties.

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    Biopolymer Dynamics

    A wide variety of activities in the living cell are crucially dependent on the mechanical properties of biopolymers. The dynamics of biopolymers are also relevant in the efficient design of microfluidic and micro-fabricated devices, which require a thorough understanding of the behaviour of biopolymers under the action of imposed flow fields. Understanding the response of biological macromolecules to stress is therefore fundamental to understanding a variety of biological processes and laboratory-on-a-chip devices. A major revolution in the pursuit of these studies has occurred in the last decade due to the development of optical and mechanical probes that are sensitive enough to make measurements on single biomolecules, and consequently give totally new insights into the structure and dynamics of living matter at nanometer scales. The new mechanical tools enable the application of forces that are large enough to induce structural deformation, and consequently probe the three-dimensional structure of the molecules. The parallel development of single molecule detection and single molecule spectroscopy by laser-induced fluorescence has enabled insight into the conformational states and conformational dynamics and activities of single biomolecules. Instead of previous experimental methods that relied on inferences drawn from ensembles of molecules, the new techniques allow one to answer questions about the behaviour of individual molecules.

    The centrality of deformation in this new paradigm in molecular biology enables us to draw an analogy with developments in the molecular rheology of polymer solutions, which can be fruitfully exploited to significantly augment the study of biomacromolecules. The goal of our research is to carry out interdisciplinary research in which the techniques of experimental and theoretical rheology, and advances in single molecule techniques, are brought to bear on several physical problems that are relevant in a biological context.

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    Viscoelastic Flow Computations

    The flow and deformation of polymeric liquids encountered in nearly all processing operations significantly influences the stretching and alignment of polymer molecules, which in turn has a crucial bearing on the final product quality. It is consequently essential to understand the link between flow operating conditions and fluid microstructure. In this project, we use a multiscale algorithm that combines Brownian dynamics simulations of individual polymer molecules with finite element simulations of the fluid flow, to compute free surface flows of non-Newtonian fluids. We are also interested in the origins of the high Weissenberg number problem, which prevents the computation of viscoelastic fluid flow with high elasticity

    Another context involving viscoelastic flow computation is the circulation of blood in small blood vessels, such as capillaries. The particulate nature of blood leads to it behaving like a non-Newtonian fluid at low shear rates, which necessitates taking its shear thinning, viscoelastic and thixotropic nature into account, Additionally, blood interacts with blood vessels walls both chemically and mechanically to give rise to an intricate fluid–structure interaction. We are interested in studying the fluid–structure interaction associated with the flow of viscoelastic fluids in vessels with finite-thickness walls.

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    Adhesion Dynamics of Plasmodium Falciparum Infected Red Blood Cells

    Over 500 million people become infected with malaria every year and about a million people die as a result. Death is caused by infected red blood cells accumulating in the blood vessels of the microcirculation, where they bind to the walls and obstruct blood flow. Using a multidisciplinary approach combining mesoscopic simulation techniques with experimental methods that use micropipette aspiration and optical tweezers, this research aims to obtain a fundamental understanding of the changes that occur to cellular adhesion when malaria parasites hijack red blood cells, and the relation of these changes to the sequestration in the microvasculature. The goal is to carry out a detailed examination of the complex dynamics of the interaction between red blood cells and vessel walls, which can be related back precisely to parasite induced molecular changes. The proposed research will ultimately lead to the development of therapeutic interventions to prevent or assuage the severe complications of the disease.

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    Monitoring Drug Binding in Cells for Enhanced Drug Discovery

    There is an impending crisis in the practice of medicine. The treatment of routine infections may no longer be possible because of increasing prevalence of drug resistant bacteria. Drug discovery is a major focus of current research to deal with antimicrobial resistance (AMR), but an equally important challenge is to develop new analytical methodologies to screen potential drugs against cellular targets. Many targets for AMR drugs are high aspect ratio complex molecular assemblies of proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids, which are challenging to characterise using traditional techniques such as NMR or X-ray crystallography. Linear dichroism (LD), however, is a powerful technique to analyse the structure of filamentous assemblies and long molecules. Nevertheless, only a qualitative indication of drug binding can currently be deduced from LD. Using a multidisciplinary approach combining mesoscopic Brownian dynamics simulations with single molecule fluorescence microscopy and flow oriented spectroscopy, we aim to extract the maximum level of dynamic structural binding information from LD spectra, so it can serve as a quantitative screen of drug binding to molecular targets in bacteria.