Lydia Kisley

Assistant Professor

Rockefeller 228A

Other Information

Degree: B.S., Wittenberg University (2010)
Ph.D., Rice University (2015)


Experimental biophysics, soft condensed matter physics, microscopy, interfacial/surface science, nanoscience, physical chemistry/chemical physics, signal processing, image analysis

Single Molecule Complex Materials Lab


The Kisley lab studies soft materials using nanoscale microscopy. We have the goal to inspire materials design by:

  • Approaching medical and industrial material problems with a molecular, quantitative perspective using single molecule spectroscopy. Single molecule spectroscopy accesses heterogeneity hidden in traditional ensemble measurements.
  • Advancing the single molecule materials field towards more complex, realistic conditions. We have a long-term vision of connecting the molecular results to the macroscale material performance.
  • Developing new microscopies that achieve a full physicochemical picture of molecular behavior. This includes how molecules adsorb, diffuse, and fold over space, time, and temperature.

We are motivated by practical problems in industrial and medical settings as described in the following projects:

1. Pharmaceutical Chiral Separations:
Chirality is the configuration of a molecule that makes its structure non-superimposable with its mirror image; i.e. the property of “handedness.” Many biological molecules are chiral, resulting in different pharmaceutical activity differences between the “right-” and “left-handed” versions of drugs. Separating chiral molecules is therefore important in the pharmaceutical industry. We are tracking single (bio)molecules within chiral porous materials used in separations to assess how these materials perform at the molecular level and predict how large-scale ensemble separations will occur.
2. Corrosion:
Corrosion is a multibillion dollar problem for infrastructure, the military, and industry. Corrosion is a slow process, which makes it difficult to assess anticorrosive materials without harsh solution conditions or long observation times. We are developing an in situ method that will open up a new time scale to study corrosion under realistic conditions. We use this technique to better understand the spatiotemporal mechanism of corrosion and the performance of anticorrosive materials.
3. Muscular Dystrophy:
Muscular dystrophy is an incurable group of inherited disorders. Signaling proteins – messaging molecules that cells excrete into the surrounding gel material, known as the extracellular matrix, around them – can go awry in muscular dystrophy causing the pathological formation of fibrotic tissue. We are developing new nanoscale imaging and analysis to answer how the heterogeneous nanoporous structure and chemistry of the extracellular matrix influences the function of these proteins before and after reaching the cell.

We welcome graduate and undergraduate scientists and engineers excited about interdisciplinary research to join our group. Prior experience in the areas of research listed is not necessary – just enthusiasm to talk science, work hard, and have fun doing so! Please contact Prof. Lydia Kisley if interested.


Most recent publications can be found on Google Scholar

Kisley, L.; Serrano, K.; Davis, C. M.; Guin, D.; Murphey, E.; Gruebele, M.; Leckband, D. E. Soluble zwitterionic poly(sulfobetaine) destabilizes proteins. Biomacromolecules 2018, 19, 3894-3901.

Kisley, L.; Miller, K.; Guin, D.; Kong, X.; Gruebele, M.; Leckband, D. E. Direct imaging of protein stability and folding kinetics in hydrogels. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 9, 21606-21617.

Dominguez-Medina, S.*; Kisley, L.*; Tauzin, L. J.; Hoggard, A.; Shuang, B.; Indrasekara, S.; Wang, L. –Y.; Derry, P. J.; Zubarev, E. R.; Landes, C. F.; Link, S. Adsorption and unfolding of a single protein triggers nanoparticle aggregation. ACS Nano 2016, 10, 2103-2112.

Kisley, L.; Brunetti, R.; Tauzin, J.; Shuang, B.; Yi, X.; Kirkeminde, A. W.; Higgins, D. A.; Weiss, S.; Landes, C. F. Characterization of porous materials by fcsSOFI. ACS Nano 2015, 9, 9158-9166.

Kisley, L.; Chen, J.; Mansur, A. P.; Shuang, B.; Kourentzi, K.; Poongavanam, M. -V.; Chen, W. -H.; Dhamane, S.; Willson, R.C.; Landes, C.F. Unified superresolution experiments and stochastic theory provide mechanistic insight into protein ion-exchange adsorptive separations. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 2014, 111, 2075-2080.