By taking advantage of his time in the lab, Jay Taylor is diving deeper into the world of material sciences. Taylor has been conducting research in Dr. Stephen Morin’s lab for three years, but it only took him two before he became the lead-author on a publication. 

A Published Chemist

In 2016, Taylor’s findings for his research focused on exploring how using the chemistry and mechanics of rubber can control how crystalline materials form were published in Advanced Materials.

“We took advantage of the mechanical properties of a rubber to change the structure of a deposited crystalline film,” Taylor said. “The rubber had a dull appearance when it was relaxed and a reflective one when it rubber was stretched.”

In the material sciences, there is a correlation between structure and function. Taylor gave the example of how a paper clip and hammer are both made of steel, but serve different purposes. Same material, different application.

“In nanomaterials, you see this very similar trend where structure controls function,” Taylor said. “So, if we can control how they form, we can control their structures. And if we can control their structure, we can control their properties.”

In the relaxed state, the crystalline film was wrinkled, scattering the light in all directions. But when stretched, the wrinkles were pulled out, creating a reflective and smooth surface. The two appearances of the rubber could be switched rapidly and reversibly, illustrating dynamic function.

Taylor said that if he can get materials to form at a certain point, and couple it with a property change, there’s a variety of dynamic materials that can be produced.

The results of this study could serve as an easy-to-notice readout on the stress state of an elastic material, which would allow for a user to easily identify when an elastic material is being over stretched, and prevent the material from breaking. 

Being able to jump into his research as a first-year graduate student allowed Taylor to start seeing immediate results.

“Within the first few months in the lab, I already had some proof of concept results,” Taylor said.

Taylor was also the co-author on a publication in Small. He and his colleagues demonstrated that they could pattern the surface of a rubber with a variety of chemical groups. These chemical patterns were completely stretchable, and they used them to drive the assembly of liquid droplets, and they showed several applications of this assembly. Taylor helped characterize the surface of the rubber and demonstrated that when stretched, the surface is smooth and completely elastic, which was a limitation in previous studies with any chemical modifications to these rubbers. 

As co-author on another publication, this one in Chemistry of Materials, Taylor helped demonstrate that by tuning the surface chemistry of the rubber, he and his colleagues could control how crystals placed on the surface adhered. They showed that they could sort a mixture of microscopic crystals on the surface of these rubbers, simply by repeatedly stretching the rubber.

Taylor attributes his success in the lab to the freedom his afford while conducting research.  

“I had some goals my boss wanted to see happen, but he left a lot of the details and how to run the experiment up to me,” Taylor said.

Current Research

Currently, Taylor is working to develop a variety of microfluidic devices and is doing some actuation with the polymers. He is also doing some collaborative work with the electrical and computer engineering department at Nebraska, where he is building nanostructures out of silica and silicon.

“I like the collaboration effort,” Taylor said. “It allows me to see another world of science.”

The Research First Experience

Many of Taylor’s results came within his first few months in the lab as a first-year graduate student.

“Being able to get in the lab and try some things was very valuable,” Taylor said. “And it was exciting to me to do so as a first-semester student.”

Taylor credits his success to the support he receives from the entire Chemistry Department at Nebraska.

“You feel like you’re valued. Your research, someone values it,” Taylor said. “Even the instruments specialists are ready and willing to help you.”


Outside of the lab, Taylor is a member of Phi Lamda Upsilon, the chemical graduate student’s honor society at Nebraska. In 2016, he was named the PLU Member of the Year for his outstanding volunteer service and willingness to help out when needed.

He also spends time at the Nebraska Innovation Studio. The studio is open to anyone in the Lincoln community who needs the space and tools for projects involving woodworking, ceramics, textiles, and electronics. Taylor enjoys woodworking and circuitry.

Taylor hopes to defend his dissertation in 2019 and move onto a postdoctoral position from there. His goal is to work in academia, but for now, his focus is on the lab.


1.)        Konda, A; Taylor, J.M.; Stoller, M.A.; Morin, S.A. “Reconfigurable Microfluidic Systems with Reversible Seals Compatible with 2D and 3D Surfaces of Arbitrary Chemical Composition” Lab Chip 2015, 15, 2009-2017.

2.)        Bowen, J.J.; Taylor, J.M.; Jurich, C.P.; Morin, S.A. “Stretchable Chemical Patterns for the Assembly and Manipulation of Arrays of Microdroplets with Lensing and Micromixing Functionality” Adv. Func. Mater. 201534, 5520-5528.

3.)        Taylor, J.M.; Argyropoulos, C.; Morin, S.A. “Soft Surfaces for the Reversible Control of Thin-Film Microstructure and Optical Reflectance” Adv. Mater. 2016, 28, 2595-2600.

4.)        Rose, M. A.; Taylor, J.M.; Morin, S.A. “Adhesion of Morphologically Distinct Crystals to and Selective Release from Elastomeric Surfaces” Chem. Mater. 2016, 28, 8513-8522.

5.)        Vinod, T.P.; Taylor, J.M.; Konda, A.; Stephen, S.M. “Stretchable Substrates for the Assembly of Polymeric Microstructures” Small, 2016 DOI: 10.1002/smll.201603350.


  • 2016 PLU Member of the Year
  • 2013 Nebraska Chemistry REU travel award