As a scientist, I want my work to be impactful. I don’t want my work to only exist in a dark corner of the internet. I want other people to learn from me and build upon my results. To paraphrase David Bowie in Zoolander, “first scientist researches, second scientist duplicates then elaborates.” The most tangible (but not to be used as a definite marker of success) is through citations. While some papers have thousands of citations, you cannot reach a thousand without first having one. I am happy to announce that I have eclipsed that barrier.
Work done by Chris Holland, Fritz Vollrath, and others shows that the silk fiber from the Bombyx mori silkworm is not fully developed immediately after spinning; as the fiber exits the animal gland, it is still high in water content and minimally crystalline. The fiber becomes stronger, forming more crystalline domains while drying. By changing the relative humidity of the environment during fiber spinning, the researchers were able to control the crystallinity in the fiber.
Here’s where my work comes in. Ben Partlow and I have shown that chemically reconstituting silk from a fiber back into solution is a destructive process. The paper by Chris and Fritz chose to alter the humidity to minimize the amount of crystallinity in the fiber so that reconstituting the fiber could be easier and less destructive. As a result, they created a reconstituted silk that behaves rheologically more similar to the silk inside the gland of the silkworm. Pretty cool stuff, and as always, great silk work coming out of England.
How could I not include this?