Best of Macros 2017: Martina Stenzel

Martina Stenzel studied chemistry at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, before completing her Ph.D. in 1999 at the Institute of Applied Macromolecular Chemistry, University of Stuttgart, Germany. She started as a postdoctoral fellow at UNSW in 1999 and is now a full Professor in the school of chemistry as well as co-director of the Centre for Advanced Macromolecular Design (CAMD). She has published more than 260 peer-reviewed papers, mainly on polymers for nanoparticle design. Her research interest is focused on the synthesis of functional nanoparticles for drug-delivery applications. She has received a range of awards including the 2011 Le Fèvre Memorial Prize of the Australian Academy of Science.

Her article “Direct Correlation Between Zeta Potential and Cellular Uptake of Poly(methacrylic acid) Post-Modified with Guanidinium Functionalities” in Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics has been selected for this year’s Best of Macros.

Ask the Author

Why did your choose the area of macromolecular science? I was always fascinated by the possibilities polymers offer: they come in all shapes, sizes, and properties. No other material has such flexibility.

What was one of the biggest challenges in your career? Accepting that you do less research the more you climb up the university ladder. I am missing the days when I just sat down and tried to analyse my NMRs.

What other topics are you working on at the moment? We have established now a spheroid cancer model, which is more complex than single cancer cells and can provide more information on the movement of nanoparticles in cancer tissue. We are testing now routinely our polymer nanoparticles and find interesting correlations between the properties of the polymer and their ability to penetrate the tissue. This has implication for the delivery of anti-cancer drugs.

What is the most significant result of this study? Add a few positive-charge guanidinium functionalities to your negative-charge polymer and you can enhance the cellular uptake immediately!

Did you expect a different outcome? If so, what was your initial prediction? We did think that we would require a critical amount of cationic charges on the polymer to achieve a good cellular uptake. It was interesting to see that there was no threshold and the uptake increased with increasing amount of guanidinium functionalities.

Did serendipity play a part in this work? Not this time! Every step in the synthesis was hard work as many conditions only led to low conversions. I have to praise here YeeYee, the student who did the work, for not giving up.

What prompted you to investigate this topic? This work was inspired by an earlier work we have published in Biomacromolecules. Back then we tried to find a synthetic version of oligoarginine. We made a monomer based on arginine, which had zwitterionic structures. To our surprise, the zwitterionic structure was just as efficient as the cationic short sequence, but with the added benefit that the polymer displayed no toxicity. This inspired us to look into this behavior in more detail.

What is your next project? 3D printing! This is more something I will be doing on the side, but it is a lot of fun seeing structures grow. We are developing some new interesting polymer formulations to enhance the mechanical stability.

What is the biggest advantage in publishing with Wiley-VCH? Wiley polymer and materials journals are much respected in the field. My articles in Wiley usually reach my peers and my articles in these journals get read by my colleagues

Could you give some advice for researchers starting out in your field? Find a good collaborator with complementary skills.

What is your favorite activity outside of the lab? I really like going to museums, theater and bush walking. Since I have two small kids my weekends involve play grounds, swimming pools and beaches.

What research topic do you think is likely to become one of the ‘hot topics’ in macromolecular science in the near future? A hot topic at the moment is probably light-driven reactions and precise structural control down to the placement of monomer units along the polymer chain. However, if you ask me what are urgent topics that should be addressed I would probably say the synthesis of polymers from renewable sources that can be produced in a cheap manner to make it commercially viable is something polymer chemists should tackle.

I am waiting for the day when….I can buy a self-driving solar powered car.

What I look for first in a publication isthe first scheme that shows me the structures and the encompassing idea of the paper (not the graphical abstract).

If I were not a scientist, I would be….an astronaut.

I would like to have discovered…..DNA: four building blocks, endless possibilities.

Direct Correlation Between Zeta Potential and Cellular Uptake of Poly(methacrylic acid) Post-Modified with Guanidinium Functionalities
Y. Y. Khine, M. Callari, H. Lu, M. H. Stenzel*
Macromol. Chem. Phys. 2016, 217, 2302−2309
DOI: 10.1002/macp.201600161

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