Symposium X—Frontiers of Materials Research

Wednesday, December 1
12:15 pm - 1:15 pm EST
Sheraton, 2nd Floor, Grand Ballroom

This event will be livestreamed from Boston on our virtual meeting platform. A rebroadcast will air Wednesday, December 8, 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm, with a live Q&A session.



Pupa GilbertPupa Gilbert, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Diverse But Convergent Mesostructure in Biominerals

Biominerals are the hard skeletons formed by diverse organisms using transient liquid or solid amorphous precursor phases that finally crystallize to achieve impressive mechanical properties, which is how they provide evolutionary advantages to the organisms. Biomineral “mesostructure,” including size, shape, spatial arrangement, and crystal orientation of crystallites, observable at the mesoscale (10 nm-10 µm), revealed by Polarization-dependent Imaging Contrast (PIC) maps, varies widely across biominerals, from spherulites in coral skeletons, lamellar nacre and elongated prisms in mollusk shells, to tooth enamel in humans, mice, or fish  teeth. Despite this great diversity, PIC maps also reveal unexpected similarities across biominerals, with implications for mechanical properties and convergent evolution.

About Pupa Gilbert

Pupa Gilbert is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and an amateur surrealist painter. She is a physicist with passionate loves for biology, geoscience, materials science and modern art.

Gilbert studied at the Sapienza University of Rome, and worked as a staff scientist at the Italian National Research Council and at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne until she joined the University of Wisconsin in 1999.

Her research focuses on biominerals, including coral skeletons, tooth enamel, nacre, and sea urchin spines. She studies them with spectromicroscopy methods at the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley, where she explores the complex structures of biominerals, and their formation mechanisms.

Gilbert has won several awards for research, teaching and writing, including the UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Award in 2011, the Radcliffe Fellowship 2014-15, and the David A. Shirley Award in 2018. She lives in Madison and Berkeley with her husband Ben.

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