Functional Macromolecules Group
Did you know that polymers can mimic functions displayed by natural macromolecules?
In nature, DNA and proteins with well-ordered structural skeletons can be recognized as sequence-defined macromolecules. DNA, composed of A, T, C, G nucleotides, is a natural polymer of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions. All essential informations to generate sequential protein chains from amino acids, by transcription and translation process, are encoded in the DNA sequence. Subsequently, the amino acid sequence determines three-dimensional structure of the protein and decides about their functions.
The synthesis of uniform macromolecules with defined monomer sequence, as displayed by natural polymers, is a challenge in modern polymer chemistry. In order to achieve full control over polymer structure, new synthesis strategies, based on iterative chemistry, has been recently developed. The accessibility of sequence-defined, uniform macromolecular structures enabled the design of polymeric materials beyond classical polymers applications, e.g. data storage. Furthermore, the monomer sequence regulation became an important parameter for the fine modulation of properties and functions of synthetic materials.
About Functional Macromolecules
Our ambition is to develop life-like functions in synthetic polymers through regulation of monomer sequence for development of complex materials.
Work with us
We are always open for new, motivated people to join our team.
We are looking forward to collaborations with industrial partners to develop new technologies based on functional polymers.
Stay tuned about our research projects ranging from fundamental science to applied research and development. Follow us on social media and on our site to get updated on our progress.
Róża Szweda, Ph.D., principal investigator
Jan 2015 PhD in Chemistry
Faculty of Materials Science and Ceramics, AGH University of Science and Technology, Kraków, Poland. Thesis: “Polymer-peptide arrays for detection of proteolytic enzymes” in the field of polymer-peptide materials for bioapplications, defended with distinction
Sep 2009 MSc in Chemistry
Faculty of Chemistry, Silesian University of Technology, Gliwice, Poland. Thesis: “ Study of the degradation process of high molecular weight polyglycidol” in the field of polymer science
From 2020 – Group Leader
Functional Macromolecules Research Group, Siec Badawcza Lukasiewicz-PORT Polish Center for Technology Development, Wrocław, Poland
Apr 2019 – Dec 2019 Project manager
Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, Institut de Science et d’Ingénierie Supramoléculaires, Strasbourg, France
Apr 2017 – Apr 2019 Project manager
Institute Charles Sadron, The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Strasbourg, France
Nov 2015-Apr 2019 Post-doc researcher
Institute Charles Sadron, The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Strasbourg, France – researcher in scientific projects in the field of sequence-controlled polymers and polymeric materials (European Research Council grant “Sequence Barcodes”)
Nov 2015-Feb 2017 Assistant professor
Centre of Polymer and Carbon Materials Polish Academy of Sciences, Zabrze, Poland
Sep 2009-Nov 2015 Research assistant
Centre of Polymer and Carbon Materials Polish Academy of Sciences, Zabrze, Poland
HONOURS AND AWARDS
- Laureate of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education scholarship for outstanding young scientists (2020-2023)
- Grant SONATA awarded by Polish National Science Centre (2019)
- Special prize for poster presented during 18th National Symposium Polymers (2016)
- Award of the Gliwice and Opole Branch of the Polish Chemical Society for the best poster presenting research done within the framework of cooperation between Institutions (2016)
- 1st prize for the best poster presentation within the section: Chemistry of polymers and biopolymers at the 58th Congress of PTChem in Gdansk, Poland (2015)
- Scholarships for the best PhD students awarded by the President of the Silesian University of Technology (2012-2014)
- Scholarship DOKTORIS awarded by Marshal of the Silesia and Silesian University, project title:“ “Polymer-peptide arrays for detection of proteolytic enzymes” (Oct 2013-Dec 2014)
- „Donation for young scientists 2011” for realization of the 10-month research project, awarded by Centre of Polymer and Carbon Materials PAS , project title: “Polymer-peptide matrices for applications in clinical diagnostics” (July 2011- Apr 2012)
- Scholarships RFSD 2, awarded by Networks of Centres of Excellence Bio-Tech-Med Silesia, project title:“ “Peptide arrays on polymeric substrates for applications in clinical diagnostics” (Oct 2009-Sept 2011)
- Member of Polish Chemical Society (since 2014)
Anuj Sharma, Ph.D.
Anuj Sharma received his Master degree in Organic Chemistry at University of Delhi (India) in 2015. Later, in the same year he joined in PhD in Organic Material Laboratory group at Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (India) where he worked on design, synthesis and characterization of fluorescent organic compounds for optoelectronic applications. Anuj obtained his PhD degree in September 2021 and currently working as Research Engineer in Functional Macromolecules group at PORT. His role is to develop chromophore-substituted sequence-defined macromolecules for tunable optical sensors.
Krzysztof Zwoliński, Ph.D.
Krzysztof holds a PhD in chemistry from the Jagiellonian University (Poland). He is a passionate bench researcher with a substantial background in various fields of applied sciences, some of which include organic, supramolecular and material chemistry. Prior to joining the Functional Macromolecules group, He worked in various scientific roles for academia and biotech companies. He brings a wealth of hands-on experience to support key laboratory and project processes ensuring their operational excellence. In his spare time, Krzysztof enjoys taking long walks, cycling and hiking. On rainy days he also enjoys taking alternative ways of making a perfect cup of coffee.
Tapendu Samanta, Ph.D.
Tapendu Samanta completed his Master degree in Chemistry (Physical Chemistry specialization) from West Bengal State University in 2013. In 2015, he joined as a research scholar at Macromolecular Lab of IISER-Kolkata to work in development of polymer based sensor molecules for the detection of toxic analytes. After completing his Ph.D. degree on April 2021, he started working as a project associate in same lab for the development of activity based fluorogenic probes for overexpressed enzymes in cancer. Later on December, 2022 he joined Functional Macromolecules group at PORT as a Research Engineer. Tapendu has extensive interest in polymer based imaging tool development for early stage cancer diagnosis. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, watching cricket/football and music.
Siyasanga Mbizana, PhD
Siya obtained his master and PhD degrees in chemistry and polymer science from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. In his PhD and a year-long post-doc position, he worked on copolymerization kinetics of N-carboxyanhydrides, synthesis and development of polypeptide-b-poly(N-vinylpyrrolidone) based copolymer as an antitumor nanocarrier. Thereafter, he worked for Fine Chemicals Corporation (Aspen) for 2 years as a regulatory affairs scientist, where he led projects on pharmaceutical process impurities detection such as nitrosamine and potential genotoxic impurities. On July 2022 he joined the Functional Macromolecules Team at Łukasiewicz – PORT, where he is exploring the sequence-structure relationship of sequence-defined polyurethanes. In his spare time, he watches soccer and read.
Franz Steppeler, Msc
Franz obtained his B.Sc. in Chemistry at the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena and his M.Sc. eng. degree in Medicinal Chemistry at Wrocław University of Science and Technology (WUST). He is a fifth-year PhD student at WUST and during his doctoral studies, he focused on stereoselective syntheses and the application of aza-bicycloalkanes as rigid bicyclic substitutions of cyclic nitrogen containing compounds. In March 2023 Franz joined the Functional Macromolecules Group as an NCN scholar to work on the synthesis of sequence-defined polymers. During his spare time, he enjoys riding a bike, cooking and virtual farming.
Paweł Cwynar, M.Sc.
Paweł obtained his MSc Eng. Degree in Materials Engineering at the Wroclaw University of Science and Technology (WUST). He was a member of the research group NONA at the WUST University for 1 year and during this time he realized his master thesis about amyloidogenic proteins and their optical properties. In parallel he completed master studies – Erasmus Mundus Master Programme at the École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay in the field of Nanobiophotonics. During his education, Paweł did two internships at the Aalto University in Helsinki and Institute of Materials Science ICMAB-CSIC in Barcelona. From September he joined Functional Macromolecules Group at Łukasiewicz PORT to pursue his PhD. Paweł’s scientific interests are mainly nanotechnology in biology and medicine applications whereas his personal interests are snowboarding, analog photography, and travels.
Weronika studied forensic chemistry and toxicology at University of Wrocław, and in 2019 I have completed her bachelor’s degree with thesis „Biomaterials based on functionalized silicon compounds”. Now, she is a Master student of Medical chemistry at University of Wrocław. Weronika is a Master student at University of Wrocław. On June 2020 she joined Functional Macromolecules Group as an intern to work on aromatic, sequence-defiened oligocarbamates for her master project. „I am interested in combining chemistry with medicine, like drug design or implant design and I enjoy creating computer graphic, reading books and listening to criminal podcasts.”
Maksymilian obtained the bachelor’s degree in chemistry and industrial analytics at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology (WUST). In his thesis he examined the spectroscopic properties of lanthanide doped fluorite crystals. At this moment, he is Master student of WUST with major at bioinformatics. On October 2020 he joined Functional Macromolecules Group as an intern to work on simulating spatial structure of sequence-defined polymers. In his spare time, he enjoys playing role-playing games and explore forgotten places.
Sara completed bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry and toxicology. Her bachelor thesis was about biomedical applications of polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes. Currently, she is a Master student of University of Wrocław with major in medical chemistry. On June 2020 she joined Functional Macromolecules Group as an intern to work on sequence-defined, aliphatic oligocarbamates with full control of stereocenters for her master degree project.
Martyna Hofman, M.Sc.
Martyna obtained her MSc degree in Medicinal Chemistry at University of Wrocław with thesis „Development of a method of isotopically labeled tadalafil standards preparation and their application in quantitative analysis by LC-MS”. In October 2021 she joined Functional Macromolecules Research Group at Łukasiewicz PORT as Process Engineer to work on sequence-defined polymers for sensor materials. Besides science, Martyna is interested in dietetics and human nutrition. In her spare time, she likes to cycling.
Ania is currently studying biotechnology at Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences. In August, she joined the Functional Macromolecules Group as an intern to learn the chemical synthesis of sequenced-defined polymers. This experience and knowledge will be helpful in her engineering thesis „Project of an abiotic polymers biosynthesis process with the use of Yarrowia Lipolityca”. In her spare time she enjoys climbing, working out with kettlebells and travelling.
Wojciech studied Chemical Engineering at Newcastle University, UK. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in 2021 with thesis „Hemicellulose to biopolymers”, a design project aimed at converting wood-processing waste to phenol based resin. He is currently a master’s student in Medical Chemistry at University of Wrocław. He joined the Functional Macromolecules Group in October as an intern in the PolyDigit project. In his spare time he enjoys singing, music production, running and watching movies.
Agnieszka studied Medical Chemistry at the University of Wrocław. She obtained her bachelor degree with thesis „Application of 5-amino-3-methyl-4-isoxazolecarboxylic acid as a non-proteinogenic amino acid in the solid-phase peptide synthesis”. Now, she continues her studies in Medical Chemistry at UWr as a master student. In September, she joined Functional Macromolecules Group as an intern to carry out her Master project and work on oligocarbamates as information carriers. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, reading books and working out.
Our expertise lies in the field of (bio)polymers synthesis and nanomaterials preparation. It involves:
- synthesis of tailored polymers using controlled/living polymerization methods, purification and post-polymerization modification
- solid-phase synthesis: synthesis of peptides and oligonucleotides, their modification and purification
- synthesis of sequence-defined polymers using iterative chemistry approaches
- surface chemistry: functionalization of surface, monolayer coatings by covalent attachment (peptides, polymers), layer-by–layer films, spin coating deposition of polymer films
- preparative organic synthesis: synthesis of monomers, polymerization initiators
- synthesis of polymer bioconjugates (polymer-peptide, polymer-oligonucleotide)
- spectroscopy: NMR, UV-vis, FTIR (ATR, transmission), fluorescence, CD
- chromatography: HPLC, GPC, preparative HPLC, Flash
- tensiometry for characterization of surface philicity
- light, fluorescence and AFM microscopy
- dynamic light scattering
- mass spectrometry (MALDI, ESI, Tof-SIMS)
Asymmetric catalysis using enzyme-like ligands based on sequence-programmable oligourethanes
Nature has encoded the secret of life in a sequence of biopolymers such as nucleic acid and proteins. For example, enzymes are capable of catalyzing several biochemical reactions with absolute selectivity. This is attributed to the 3-dimensional geometry of enzymes which determines their functions and activity. Recapitulating similar functions in synthetic macromolecules is a challenge in modern polymer chemistry. The non-natural sequence-defined polymers have great potential to exhibit self-assembly and programmed folding and received widespread attention in material and life sciences. However, there is limited prior information on inducing enzyme-like catalytic properties of synthetic sequence-defined polymers for abiotic chemical transformations. Therefore, we aim to investigate sequence-defined polyurethanes as ligands in asymmetric catalysis. The project will add fundamental knowledge on the synthesis and conformational characteristics of stereo-controlled sequence-defined polyurethanes. This understanding of sequence-structure correlation will further be applied to develop potential ligands for catalytic hydrogenation of alkenes with high selectivity.
Project is carried out in collaboration with Dr Pawel Dydio, Complex Systems in Synthesis & Catalysis Laboratory at ISIS, Université de Strasbourg, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, France.
Project SONATINA No 2022/44/C/ST4/00063 funded by Polish National Science Centre
Sequence-regulated polymer self-assembly towards materials mimicking living systems
In living matter, self-assembly benefits from the evolutionary processes that tune interactions to optimize the properties, morphology and functionality of the resulting biomaterials. Nature exploits the primary sequence of natural macromolecules (e.g., proteins) that fold into particular motifs that self-organize into complex structures representing various properties. In contrast, man-made polymer materials are far away from advanced functionalities as represented by living systems.
Nowadays, the progress in polymer synthesis enables full control of monomer sequences with biological precision. However, to enable their practical use a sustainable and highly efficient approach has to be developed. It is expected that sequence-defined macromolecules can be designed to fold into particular 3D structures by a selection of the proper monomer alphabet, as it is observed for natural macromolecules. Yet, very little is known about single chain folding of non-natural macromolecules with defined primary structure and their assembly into complex supramolecular structures has not been investigated, so far.
The project will be carried out in cooperation between:
(i) Roza Szweda`s Functional Macromolecules Team at Łukasiewicz-PORT, Poland, an expert in precision polymer chemistry,
(ii) Takuji Adachi`s Group from the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, physical chemist and specialist in optical spectroscopy on self-assembled materials, developing in-situ spectroscopy tools,
We jointly took a challenge to investigate the fundamental self-assembly process of abiotic, sequence-defined polymers. The project aims to obtain knowledge on sequence-regulated, hierarchical polymer self-assembly, which is required for creating synthetic materials with structural sophistication and complex function as represented by living matter.
Project OPUS LAP No 2021/43/I/ST4/01294 funded by Polish National Science Centre
Polymers as a next generation data storage media
Nature uses DNA for data storage – natural polymers made of nucleotides that contain all the information necessary for the proliferation of living organisms. Defined Sequence Polymers (SDPs) offer a stable, resource-efficient, energy-efficient, and sustainable data storage solution. The properties of synthetic polymers can be precisely modulated and adapted to the requirements. The characteristics of the polymer can be fine-tuned by selecting appropriate building blocks from a wide library of synthetic monomers. Modern, advanced nanosynthesis methods allow materials to be easily produced with the precision of monolayers. Macromolecules can be sequentially arranged in a small volume and used as high-capacity data storage materials. Currently, the challenge is to read the information stored in digital polymers easily and quickly. The lack of convenient methods for reading information using non-destructive techniques prevents the development of new data storage materials based on synthetic polymers. The project aims to study fluorescent polymer materials for their usefulness in storing data and reading information encoded in the monomer sequence based on the fluorescence pattern.
The project aims to develop a new class of fluorescent polymers as a new generation of data carriers.
Project SONATA Bis No 2021/42/E/ST4/00010 funded by Polish National Science Centre
Nature-inspired polymer sensors for improved drinking water quality control
The latest achievements in the field of organic and polymer chemistry, have made possible the synthesis of abiological polymers with a defined primary structure. The pilot applications of precise polymeric building blocks have been demonstrated for catalysis and information storage; however, their great potential has not been explored. The PolyProbe scientific goal is to develop a new, highly sensitive and selective method of detection of nonylofenol based on polymers of defined structure in combination with fluorescence spectroscopy.
Sequence programmable polymer materials for the selective sensing of bioactive water pollutants
The problem of water pollution with bioactive compounds has been growing in the last few years due to the increasing consumption of drugs in developed societies and the pollution of the environment with plastics. Drugs we take are not fully metabolized, are excreted by our body and end up in the natural environment. In particular, very dangerous are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), as pointed out by the World Health Organization. EDCs can affect the endocrine system and subsequently impair the development and fertility of animals and humans. The aim of the project is to develop a highly sensitive and selective method of detecting bioactive water pollutants based on fluorescent polymers with a defined structure. The monomer sequence of the polymer will be designed to specifically interact with the selected analytes. Programming polymer properties through sequences is a breakthrough approach in the field of polymer materials and allows for very precise modulation of their properties. Polymers defined in their structure can perform functions like natural macromolecules, e.g. receptors while maintaining appropriate material properties, i.e. stability. In the project, uniform polymers with the designed sequence will be equipped with fluorescent tags and used as probes for the detection of bioactive water pollutants. The result of the project will be the development of a prototype tool for the determination of bioactive water pollutants based on innovative polymer materials. Providing tools for efficient control of the level of bioactive pollutants in water will allow for the widespread introduction of water quality monitoring programs. Wastewater treatment plants will be the direct recipients of the project results, and indirectly the whole community.
Project No. LIDER/27/0148/L-12/20/NCBR/2021.
Sequence-defined macromolecules of controlled folding
The natural, uniform macromolecules such as proteins and DNA of sequence-defined structures have been inspiring polymer chemists for years. The roles and functions that they can attain are determined by their three-dimensional arrangement that depends on monomer sequence. To reach for the diverse structures and complex properties, represented by native biological polymers, sequence programmability of the synthetic polymer and control of their 3D structure are required.
ConFold aims to investigate structural properties of sequence-defined synthetic polymers -polycarbamates. The general objective in this project is to gain control over the three-dimensional structure of polymers by monomer sequence evolution, as it is observed for natural proteins formed from sequences of amino acids.
ConFOLD will add a fundamental knowledge of synthesis and structural properties of synthetic sequence-defined polymers to fill a part of the large information gap concerning properties and displayed functions between synthetic polymers and native biological materials.. This understanding of sequence-structure relationships will enable to gain better control over polymers properties and will advance their application scope.
Project No 2018/31/D/ST5/01365 funded by Polish National Science Centre, budget 1 455 799,00 PLN
We are always open to new, motivated people to join our team. Especially, with a background in organic or polymer chemistry (but not only). If you are interested to join us write direct email to email@example.com and attach your CV.