Michael Paonessa

Mentor: Dr. Gregory Hudalla
College of Engineering
"I got involved with research to contribute to the development of new medical technologies while enhancing my understanding and knowledge of biomaterials and scientific research."


Biomedical Engineering



Research Interests

  • Biomaterials
  • Tissue Engineering
  • Clinical Research

Academic Awards

  • Anderson Scholar of High Distinction 2013
  • University Scholar award 2014
  • HHMI Undergraduate Research Award


  • Gators for Haven Hospice
  • Virology Club


  • Haven Hospice
  • Harbor Chase Assisted Living and Memory Care
  • Mission trips to Guatemala and Dominican Republic

Hobbies and Interests

  • Playing piano
  • Playing chess
  • Playing golf
  • Competing in triathlons

Research Description

Polypeptide-based Biomaterials with Modular Composition Assembled via Electrostatic Complementarity

My research project will engineer the amino acid sequence of a peptide that self-assembles into a nanofiber, such that electrostatic repulsion prevents homopolymer formation. First, I will use solid-phase peptide synthesis to generate a family of theoretical oligopeptide monomer sequences that are designed to remain in the monomeric state until they are neutralized via change in pH or mixing with a complementarily charged oligopeptide sequence. I will then characterize the assembly of these peptides into nanofibers under various conditions using a variety of techniques, including fluorescence spectroscopy and electron microscopy. The sequences that provide the most control in assembly will then be integrated into fusion proteins via DNA recombination, and these fusion proteins will be produced by E. coli. The expression, purification, and assembly of monomeric fusion proteins consisting of an assembly domain peptide and a biologically active protein into modular biomaterials will be characterized. Success of this research will provide nanomaterials with modular protein ligand composition that may be broadly useful as therapeutic biomaterials.