Project Overview

Exploring the correlation between structure, composition, and strength in biominerals

Faculty Sponsor

Rebecca Metzler (


Physics and Astronomy


Biominerals are complex, composite materials produced by organisms across the three biological domains. Biominerals vary in form from bones and teeth to shells and exoskeletons. The variety in form corresponds to diversity in structure and composition and function. The goal of this project is to examine the relationship between structure, function, and composition for specific biominerals: barnacle exoskeleton, coral, and oyster adhesive. Preliminary data indicates each of these biominerals have complex structures. The goal of the project is to determine how the complex structures provide the material with properties that are necessary for function. This goal will be achieved by collecting additional structure data with light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy combined with micro-hardness testing. Compositional information, obtained through energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy, will be used to examine whether correlations exist between composition and structure or function. Students will be involved in each aspect of the project, including analyzing the data.

Student Qualifications

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 01/15/2017 and close on 02/07/2017

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (