Giuliano Zanchetta received his PhD in Physics in December 2007 from the University of Milano (advisor Tommaso Bellini) with a thesis on LC ordering of short DNA fragments, for which he was awarded the Glenn Brown Prize in 2008.

In 2008 he was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in the Liquid Crystal Materials Research Center directed by Noel Clark, and he is currently a postdoc at the University of Milano, in the Complex Fluids and Molecular Biophysics Lab.

His research focuses on the experimental investigation of complex fluids and self-assembly of biomolecules, in particular the liquid crystalline ordering and phase separation in DNA and RNA aqueous solutions, interactions between liquid crystals and biomolecules, aggregation phenomena in colloids, polymers and proteins.

Giuliano Zanchetta, featured ILCC liquid crystal artist, July 2010

The picture reproduces the transition from the columnar liquid crystalline (LC) phase to the crystalline phase in a concentrated aqueous solution of small fragments of double-stranded DNA (12 nucleotides long self-complementary sequences: CGCGAATTCGCG).

Aqueous solutions of short DNA helices were recently found to show a wide range of LC phases (including chiral nematic and hexagonal columnar) via the end-to-end adhesion and consequent stacking of the duplex oligomers into polydisperse anisotropic rod-shaped aggregates (M.Nakata et al. Science 318, 1276 (2007)).

The picture was taken in polarized transmission optical microscopy on a TE200 Nikon Microscope, with a Nikon DS-5M camera. Image size is about 400 x 300 micrometers (20x objective). The sample is between two glass slides spaced by a 10 micrometers film.

Jury comment: This picture was selected by several members of the public who felt it was extremely beautiful. They did not have expertise in Liquid Crystals, but thought that the picture was reminiscent of looking down from an aeroplane!.