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Thomas Dugger



After graduating from Olin College of Engineering with a degree in Materials Science & Engineering, I joined Prof. Kisailus’ lab as a Ph.D. student to study spider silk, nature’s strongest protein fiber. I study how spiders’ make their silk; investigating the factors which control the assembly of crystalline domains within the silk proteins. If I can understand how spiders make their silk, I can apply it to polymer fiber manufacturing and even design biomimetic polymer fibers. These biomimetic fibers can then be annealed into carbon fiber and used to make strong fiber-reinforced composites for applications such as body armor, sports equipment, and aircraft or automobile frames. In addition to liking spiders more than most people do, I also enjoy the company of dogs, reptiles, and other people. While in the company of dogs, I’m known to pet them and play fetch. With people, I cook, play strategy games, and explore new places. As for the reptiles, I mostly just bask in awe of how cool they look.


Spider silk is well known as one of nature’s strongest protein fibers. It is as tough as synthetic rubbers and stronger per weight than steel. Much of this strength is attributed to β-sheet poly-alanine crystals aligned with the fiber axis. By investigating the finely tuned biological processing of proteins during fiber formation, we can understand the controlled assembly of these domains that regulate strength and toughness in these incredible constructs and translate this to biomimetic routes of multifunctional fiber production.

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