Lauren Zarzar

  • Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemistry
427 Steidle
(814) 865-1316


Lauren attended the University of Pennsylvania, earning bachelor's degrees in Chemistry (from the College of Arts and Sciences) and Economics (from Wharton) while working in the laboratory studying quantum dots and fluorescent gold-thiolate complexes/nanoclusters. Subsequently, Lauren attended graduate school at Harvard University in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Her graduate work focused on the development and study of bio-inspired, chemo-mechanical actuation systems in which stimuli-responsive hydrogel drives the controlled movement of surface-attached, high-aspect-ratio polymeric microstructures. During the summers of graduate school, Lauren worked at the Advanced Materials Laboratory of Sandia National Laboratories investigating multiphoton patterning of responsive gels and nanocrystalline metals. After receiving her Ph.D. in 2013, she spent a summer at the University of Tokyo researching confinement effects on stimuli-responsive liquid crystals. As a postdoctoral associate at MIT, she developed complex multiphase emulsions that are dynamically reconfigurable and responsive to external stimuli.

Academic Training

Ph.D. in Chemistry, Harvard University
B.S. in Economics, University of Pennsylvania
B.A. in Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania


Dynamic materials that sense and adapt to their surroundings are primed to be integral components of future technologies. Such systems often require precise chemo-mechanical coordination between multiple materials working cooperatively in order to achieve the proper functionality. Therefore, in addition to the exploration of novel mechanisms coupling these chemical and mechanical cues, it will also be critical to develop prototyping approaches that facilitate the integration of a myriad of materials, especially at nano and micrometer length scales. In the Zarzar Lab, we explore a multitude of platforms including both hard and soft materials. For example, we study: 1) direct laser writing of metals and oxides for 2D and 3D nano/microscale patterning, 2) dynamically reconfigurable emulsions as functional fluids with applications such as tunable lenses, sensors, and triggered release, and 3) design of responsive hydrogels that couple programmable molecular reconfiguration with macroscale functionality.