Dr Victoria Garcia Sakai

Instrument Scientist

Location R 3, 2. 05
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
E-mail victoria.garcia-sakai@stfc.ac.uk
Telephone (office) +44 (0) 1235 446703
Mobile (short code) 1934 (only works when dialed on site)

Introduction and profile

I joined ISIS as an instrument scientist for the neutron backscattering spectrometers IRIS and OSIRIS‚ in 2007. Prior to this I was an instrument scientist at the NIST‚ Center for Neutron Research in MD, USA. A chemical engineer by training at Imperial College London, I have concentrated my scientific career on understanding the behaviour of macromolecules, throughout my PhD at Imperial, my postdoc at Pennsylvania State University and my time at neutron facilities.‚ 

Research and development interests

My research focuses on the exploitation of combining different neutron scattering techniques with different time and spatial scales, with molecular dynamics simulations, to better understand the dynamics in Soft Matter systems. Neutron scattering is an ideal tool since it is non-destructive, neutrons are highly penetrating, and probes atomic/molecules lengthscales and timescales which overlap with that from simulations. More specifically I am interested in the dynamics of polymeric and biological systems.

V García Sakai, C. Alba-Simionesco, S.-H. Chen [Eds.], Dynamics of Soft Matter, Springer, New York, 2012

V García Sakai and A. Arbe, Quasielastic neutron scattering in soft matter, Current Opinion in Colloid & Intefrace Science 14 (2009) 381-390

Cryopreservation

Trehalose, a disaccharide found in organisms that survive desiccation over long periods of time, is known to have a stabilizing effect on biologicals and is used for the long-term storage of membranes, proteins and cells. For membranes, trehalose lowers the melting temperature of the bilayer preventing leakage during freezing and drying of cells. For low temperature storage, glycerol appears to be a better candidate. In both cases though, the mechanism underlying stabilization is still not well understood.

V. García Sakai, S. Khodadadi, M. T. Cicerone, J. E. Curtis, A. P. Sokolov, J. Ho Roh, Solvent effects on protein fast dynamics:implications for biopreservation,Soft Matter Communication 9 (2013) 5336-5340

M Doxastakis, V. García Sakai, S. Ohtake, J.K. Maranas, J.J. de Pablo, A molecular view of melting in anhydrous phospholipidic membranes, Biophys J 92 (2007) 147

Dynamics of biological macromolecules

The dynamics of biological macromolecules span many orders of magnitude, and in addition to their structure play a key role in their function in living organisms. Understanding the dynamics of functional groups in protein as a function of hydration, pH and environment in general will help us understand how proteins function. In particular membrane proteins represent a important research challenge, since they participate in many life processes. Protein-protein interactions, lipid-protein interaction, lipid matrix behavior are all integral parts; an understanding of the dynamics in these systems in combination with structural studies should give us a complete picture.

L Toppozini, CL Amstrong, MA Barett, S Zheng, L Luo, H Nanda and V Garcia Sakai, Partitioning of Ethanol into Lipid Membranes and its Effect on Fluidity and Permeability as seen by X-ray and Neutron Scattering, Soft Matter 8 (2012) 11839-11849

MTF Telling, L Clifton, J Combet, B Frick, WS Howells,V García Sakai, Lyophilised protein dynamics: more than just methyls? Soft Matter Communication 8 (2012) 9529-9532

VK Sharma, S Mitra, V García Sakai, PA Hassan, J Peter Embs, R Mukhopadhyay, The dynamical landscape in CTAB micelles, Soft Matter 8, 3151-3160 (2012)

SV Ghugare, E Chiessi, B Cerroni, MTF Telling, V García Sakai, G Paradossi, Biodegradable dextran based microgels: a study on network associated water diffusion and enzymatic activity, Soft Matter 8 (2012) 2494-2502

MFT Telling, C Neylon, L Clifton, WS Howells, L van Eijck, V García Sakai, Thermal motion in the multi-subunit protein, apoferritin, as probed by high energy resolution neutron spectroscopy, Soft Matter 7 (2011) 6934-6941

Y Gerelli, V García Sakai, J. Ollivier, A Deriu, Conformational and segmental dynamics in lipid-based vesicles, Soft Matter 7 (2011) 3929-3935

VK Sharma, G Verma, PA Hassan, V García Sakai, R Mukhopadhay,  Internal dynamics in SDS micelles: neutron Scattering study, J Phys Chem B 114 (2010) 17049-17056

S Khodadadi, S Pawlus, JH Roh, V García Sakai, E. Mamontov, and A. P. Sokolov, The origin of the dynamic transition in proteins, J Chem Phys 128 (2008) 195106

G Caliskan, RM Briber, D Thirumalai, V. García Sakai, SA Woodson, AP Sokolov, Dynamic transition in tRNA is solvent induced , J Am Chem Soc 128 (2006) 32-33

Polymers for organic photovoltaics

Organic solar cells produce electricity from sunlight by means of conductive polymers. They provide a low-cost, light-weight, flexible alternative to both silicon and inorganic cells. Low-energy-gap congugated polymers such as poly-thiophenes have attracted much attention in recent years due to their electronic transport characteristics. Achieving high efficiencies, at least comparable to the 12-20% obtained with commercial inorganic cells, and long stability are two big research challenges. A deeper understanding of the relation between morphology, dynamics, and electronic properties will shed some light on the open questions about the transport properties and degradation processes of these materials. 

Joint PhD student, Giuseppe Maria Paternò, with Prof. Franco Cacialli at UCL (London)  

GM Paternò, F Cacialli, V. García Sakai, Structural and dynamical characterisation of P3HT/PCBM blends, Chem Phys SI (in press) 

GM Paternò, F Cacialli, V. García Sakai, Micro-focused X-Ray Diffraction Characterization of High-quality [6,6]-Phenyl C61 Butyric acid Methyl Ester Single Crystals Without Solvent Impurities, J Mat Chem C (Communication) 1 (2013) 5619-5623.

C Díaz-Paniagua, A Urbina, V García Sakai, T Seydel, J Abad, J Padilla, R García-Valverde, N Espinosa, MJ Gómez-Escalonilla, F Langa, F Batallán, Molecular dynamics of solutions of poly-3-octyl-thiophene and
functionalized single wall carbon nanotubes studied by neutron
scattering
, Chem Phys SI (in press).

 

Polymers in confinement

In order to create new materials with specific properties, we often rely on blending of two polymers or more recently on making nanocomposites. These have a very broad range of applications given their enhanced properties, but also provide very interesting fundamental science, that on confinement on the nanoscale. For example, blending two thermodynamically miscible polymers with vastly different glass transition temperatures (Tg) creates dynamical immiscibility, or understanding the reduction of Tg with the addition of nanoparticles similar to that observed in thin films.

P Akcora, SK Kumar, V García Sakai, LS Schadler, Segmental dynamics in PMMA-grafted nanoparticles, Macromolecules 43 (2010) 8275-8281

V. García Sakai, J. K. Maranas, I. Peral and J. R. D. Copley, Dynamics of PEO in blends with PMMA:Study of the effects of blend composition via QENS, Macromolecules 41 (2008) 3701

JM Kropka, V García Sakai, PF Green, Local polymer dynamics in polymer-C60 mixtures, Nano Letters 8 (2008) 1061

V García Sakai, JK Maranas, Z Chowdhuri, I Peral, JRD Copley, Miscible blend dynamics and the length scale of local compositions, J Polym Sci Polym Phys 43 (2005) 2914

V. García Sakai, J. K. Maranas, Z. Chowdhuri, Effect of blending with PEO on the dynamics of PMMA: A quasi-elastic neutron scattering approach, Macromolecules 37 (2004) 9975 .

 

Other publications

V García Sakai, E Mamontov, DA Neumann, A Background Suppression Chopper for the High-Flux Backscattering Spectrometer at NIST, J Neutron Res 16 (2009) 65-74

Professional activities: Memberships/External organisations

Associate Staff at University College London and London Center for Nanotechnology

Co-organiser of the Oxford School of Neutron Scattering (2011-present)

PhD Co-Supervisor of GMPaterno (with Prof. Franco Cacialli, UCL) - UCL Impact Studentship + ISIS

PhD Co-Supervisor of JM Hart (with Dr. R.Thompson Durham Univ and Prof. N Clarke Sheffield Univ) - STFC Futures Studenship

Member of the board of directors of the Sociedad Española de Técnicas Neutrónicas (2006‐present)

Member of the ILL Scientific Council (2014-2017)

Member of the ISIS Molecular Spectroscopy User Group Liason Team (2008‐2012)

STEM Ambassador

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