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February 2019: Kent State Liquid Crystal Institute Visit

  • Cecilia had a great time visiting the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State. Thanks to Robin Selinger for the kind invitation!

January 2019: New Graduate Student!

  • Our group is growing! We welcome Marilyn Porras Gomez to our team as she seeks to characterize novel biomaterial systems using atomic force microscopy.



September 2018: New Graduate Student!

  • The Leal group is excited to welcome Lining Zheng into our ranks! Lining will be evaluating the endosomal release of lipid-nucleic acid constructs.



May 2018: Escape room!

  • The Leal group does a group outing to a fun escape room + dinner to send off Minjee and Hojun. Good luck Minjee and Hojun on their postdoctoral positions at MSE Cornell (Minjee) and at KIST (Hojun)



March 2018: American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in New Orleans

  • Cecilia is just back from a wonderful symposium at the ACS to honor her PhD advisor - Håkan Wennerström, that received the ACS Colloids Award. Thank you Ulf Olsson and Norm Wagner for the kind invitation to speak. It was great to catch up with old friends too!


February 2018: Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research!

  • Cecilia is honored and humbled to receive this year's Dean's Award for Excellence in Research for Assistant Professors. More HERE.

February 2018: 100 Days of Women (UIUC)

  • Happy to be featured in the project 100 Days of Women at UIUC. I feel successful when my students do well and I live by the motto that every scientific achievement needs a "human pre-fractor".HERE!

February 2018: Minjee's new paper!

  • Checkout our latest video abstract of Minjee's latest Advanced Functional Materials paper. Structure and Dynamics in lipid-polymer hybrid systems. HERE!


February 2018: press

  • Cecilia talks about the lab's super-swelling bicontinuous lipid single crystals to "New Life Sciences": CHECK IT OUT!


January 2018: DURIP AWARD!

  • Cecilia is thrilled to receive a Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) Award entitled "Imaging alveolar membranes mimicking healthy and unfit lungs: the acquisition of a fluorescence micoscope". DURIP awards support university research infrastructure and instrumentation essential to high-quality Navy-relevant, cutting-edge research. With this grant we will acquire a super nice fluorescence confocal microscopy system.

November 2017: MRS Meeting, Boston

  • Cecilia will present an invited talk at Symposium BM11: Modeling, Characterization, Fabrication and Applications of Advanced BiopolymersWhere Form Meets Function. Nov 28, 1:30 pm: "Three-Dimensional Microphase Separation Leads to Synergistic Permeability in Lipid-Polymer Hybrid Constructs". Come check it out!

  • Congratulations to Minjee for getting the Dow Travel Award to present her work at the MRS meeting in Boston!

November 2017: Minjee turns into Dr. Kang!

  • Congratulations to Minjee on an excellent PhD thesis! The lab looks up to you so much and we will miss you! Also, at the Leal Lab, AFM now stands for "Awesome Fantastic Minjee":-)


November 2017: MRL Fall conference

  • Cecilia is happy to deliver a talk at the MRL Fall conference 2017 entitled "The role of membrane complexity in cellular delivery: a materials characterization and processing challenge". Thank you so much for the invitation!

October 2017: Abstracts to the APS meeting in LA are due November 3!

  • Join our APS session: 02.1.13 Self-assembly in Liquid Crystals and other Complex Solvents (GSOFT, DBIO, DPOLY) [same as 01.1.25, 04.1.25]. Submit an abstract

October 2017: Campus Colloquium

  • Prof. Leal enjoyed the visit to the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition to talk about Small Angle X-ray Scattering of Lipids. Thank you very much Graciela Padua for the invitation.

October 2017: Trips and awesome publications


  • Hojun's PNAS paper is in the news. Congrats Hojun!

  • Cecilia is back from a great (and short) trip to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Thank you Chenhui Zhu for the kind invitation.

September 2017: New graduate students!

  • Welcome Jacob Rueben and Yookyung Go as new gradaute students in the lab! Pictures and info of their projects coming soon.

September 5th 2017: Hojun Kim defends his PhD thesis; the first of the Leal Lab!

  • Congratulations to Hojun Kim for doing a great job defending the first thesis out of our research group. Hojun did a brilliant job throughout his PhD time and his presentation reflected that! Here is a picture of us celebrating afterwards. We started a new tradition: Leal Lab tshirts!


August 2017: ECI-"Association in Solution IV" conference

  • Cecilia is back from a great ECI conference at St. Johns, Newfoundland where she gave a talk: "Solutions with Structure for Cellular Delivery". Thank you so much Ulf Olsson and Norman Wagner for the kind invitation. Cecilia was particularly happy to see her PhD advisor Håkan Wennerström. Håkan was busy back then as chairman of the Nobel prize committee for chemistry, but he always found the time to be a great mentor.


July 2017: Visit to Harvard Med and the Brigham and Women's Hospital

  • Cecilia is back from a great (and busy!) week in Boston. Thank you so much Daniel Topgaard and Carl-Fredrik Westin for the warm welcome. Fingers crossed for our NIH proposal!

June 2017: Mid-GLAM and The Liquid Crystal Gordon Research Conference

  • Cecilia is excited to launch, together with Robert Maass (and Dylan Steer and Chelsea Liu), the first week-long summer camp in materials science and engineering devoted to middle-school females (Mid-GLAM June 26-30). It was a good week! Thank you NSF for the support and Elizabeth Innes for the nice iSTEM article about it.


  • Cecilia is back from a wonderful GRC meeting in Liquid Crystals, June 18-23, Biddeford, ME. Thank you Linda Hirst for the kind invitation.Cecilia is also excited to have been elected the vice-chair for the next meeting, together with Jan Lagerwall!


June 2017: New Lab Members!

  • The Leal lab welcomes Dr. Sherry Leung as a new postdoctoral researcher! Sherry wil be working on lipid nanoparticles for cellular delivery. We are excited to have her in our team!

May 2017: Awards and Trips to Europe!

  • Congratulations to Hojun for winning the Racheff-Intel award that recognizes top graduate students in Materials Science and Engineering. Well deserved!

  • Minjee and Dylan travel to Lund University in Sweden to work on solid-state NMR with Prof. Topgaard, but first...FIKA (coffee and cakes):

April 2017: Daniel Topgaard is visiting April 10-April 14!

  • Cecilia is thrilled to host Professor Daniel Topgaard from the Department of Physical Chemistry at Lund University Sweden. Cecilia and Daniel go way back having a love for many things in common, including NMR. From classical soft matter systems to the living brain, Daniel will be telling us about how NMR tools may give us many answers. His seminar is April 11, 2:30 pm, 217 Noyes.

March 2017: APS in New Orleans!

  • Cecilia, Hojun, Minjee, and Dylan are back from the APS March meeting in New Orleans after organizing sessions, chairing sessions, giving talks, and networking. It was intense but a fun week!

February 2017: Group coffee

  • Cecilia might need detoxing:

January 2017: We are hiring!

  • Our lab WAS actively seeking for postdoctoral researchers. Please see more info here.

January 2017: California

  • Cecilia is just back from a trip to the University of California at Irvine at Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. Thank you Alon Gorodetsky for the kind invitation! (And for the umbrella that turned out to be essential!)

December 2016: APS March meeting in New Orleans here we come!

  • Cecilia is co-organizing two sessions at the American Physics Society meeting March 2017 in New Orleans. One is "Organization of soft materials out of equilibrium" and the other is "New Mesophase Symmetries and Topologies in Self-Assembled Soft Matter".

December 2016: Cecilia attends the 2016 High Risk High Reward Workshop at the NIH in Bethesda

December 2016: End of year party


November 2016: Travel awards

  • Congratulations to Minjee Kang for winning a travel award to attend the Materials Research Society meeting where she will give a talk about her polymer/lipid composite films.

October 2016: Cecília wins the NIH New Innovator award!

  • Thank you Abe Koshy at Ui7 News for the great video. We can't claim we do cancer research but our work could impact it one day. Have a look!

  • Prof. Leal is thrilled with the recognition and the oportunity to start a very exciting project. Have a look! New Innovator 2016. And it seems I was on TV too:-)

September 2016: MSE Cornell and New Students!

  • The Leal Lab welcomes Sarith Bandara and Mijung Kim as new graduate students!

  • Prof. Leal is just back from a great visit to the MSE Department at Cornell where she presented colloquium entitled: "Lipid membrane complexity as a handle to activate cellular delivery". Thank you Eve Donnelly for the kind invitation.

August 2016: Lab gets ONR funding and a Journal Cover!

  • The Leal Lab receives funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to investigate lung surfactant properties in marine mammals. Prof. Leal is excited to initiate this line of research and is particularly pleased to win a grant that was submitted the day her son was born:-)

  • Congratulations to Minjee for her recently published paper in Advanced Functional Materials that made it to the (back) cover!

July 2016: Cecilia travels to Colorado

  • Prof. Leal is back from Telluride from a fantastic TSRC workshop entitled "Complexity of Chemistry and Physics of Lipid Membranes". Thank you Rob Walker, John Seddon, and Colin Bain for the invitation. It was great catching up with friends and making new ones such as Mary Kraft, Markus Deserno, and Patricia Bassereau.

June 2016: Lab gets ACS funding and Cecilia is off to Europe

  • Prof. Leal is excited to embark in a new research direction financed by the ACS-Petroleum Research Fund entitled: "Mixing Oil and Water by Ionic Liquids: Stability Maps of Emerging Fluids in Oil Recovery".

  • Prof. Leal was delighted to visit the INL-International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Braga-Portugal. It was great meeting Prof. Elisabete Oliveira and Dr. Marlene Lúcio as well as reconnecting with good friends. Thanks to Dr. Bruno Silva for hosting!

  • Prof. Leal is back from the Gordon Research Conference: Bioinspired Materials 2016 in Switzerland. Thank you Tim Deming for the invitation to the best GRC ever!

Group Photo of the GRC attendees!

May 2016: Preliminary exams and Workshops

  • Prof. Leal is invited to talk at the CNST 14th Annual Nanotechnology Workshop at UIUC. The topic of the presentation is the organization of soft materials at the nano-scale for the applications in macro-scale drug delivery devices.

  • Congratulations to Minjee for passing her prelim exam and sharing with us her very cool project. Well done!

Minjee passed her prelim exam!

April 2016: Outreach workshops

  • Prof. Leal delivers a workshop in "The Grand Challenges of Enginnering" at the Danville Correctional Facility as part of the Education Justice Project at UIUC. The experience was very rewarding.

March 2016: Teaching awards!

  • Prof. Leal is named on the List of Excellent Teachers for Fall 2015 for the teaching of MSE201: Phases and Phase relations.

February 2016: CAREER Award!

  • Prof. Leal receives the NSF CAREER award to investigate the phase behavior of lipids and lipid/polymer hybrids confined to surfaces in order to develop new coatings with therapeutic function. 

January 2016: Preliminary exams

  • Congratulations Hojun for passing the prelim exam!

December 2015

  • The Leal lab featured at Illinois and Materials for Medicine:
    "Cecilia Leal’s interdisciplinary research group is investigating how biological matter self-organizes and how these processes can be exploited to create functional biomaterials". Read the article here!

November 2015: Synchrotons, Babies, and Conferences

  • The Leal lab makes its first trip to the Synchrotron facility at the Advance Photon Source (APS) of Argonne National Labs. Thank you Dr. Lee at BL 12 ID SAXS for your support!

  • At the same time baby Max (posing below with his sister Amy) also joins the Leal family!

  • Professor Leal is busy with family affairs while Hojun travels to MRS Fall 2015 (Boston) to deliver a talk discussing his recent ACS Nano paper of structured soft nanoparticles.

July 2015: Summer schools and Outreach

  • Minjee packs off to xray school for a couple weeks at APS and Oakridge national labs in Illinois and Tennessee

  • Professor Leal is excited to run an X-ray lab (diffraction of gems and scattering of eggs) devoted to high school female students as part of the Girls Learning About Materials (GLAM) camp!

June 2015: California trip and Women in Engineering promotional video

  • Professor Leal travels to beautiful Santa Barbara to discuss “The future of graduate education in materials”, a workshop financed by the National Science Foundation.

  • Check out the new Women In Engineering at Illinois promotional video!

April 2015: Colloquiums

  • Professor Leal travels to West Lafayette to give a Materials Engineering Colloquium at Purdue University. Thank you David Bahr for the kind invitation.

  • Professor Leal gives an invited talk at the CERL/UIUC lab on soft nanostructured materials. Thank you for the invitation!

March 2015: Cecilia delivers an invited talk at the APS and Lab gets funding

  • Professor Leal gives an invited talk at the APS March meeting entitled: Topologically Active Soft Materials for Cellular Delivery. The abstract is available online at

  • The Lab receives funding from the Campus Research Board to investigate biofilms by Small Angle X-ray Scattering in controlled environment chambers. We look forward to advancing this new technology and research project.

  • The Lab receives funding from the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies to investigate the properties of brazilian woods with and without natural fungicide treatments. This project will run in collaboration with Dr. Sardela at the MRL and Professor Débora Gonçalves from the Physics Department at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

December 2014: Awards, Holidays, and Conferences!

  • Congratulations to Minjee for receiving the 3M Graduate Fellow Grant!

  • The Leal group meets at Prof. Leal's house for a Holiday dinner


  • Minjee and Prof. Leal both present at the MRS –Fall in Boston. Minjee does a great job in her first research talk!

August 2014: New students

  • The Leal Lab welcomes Dylan Steer as a new Graduate Student!

July 2014: Summer work!

  • Prof. Leal travels down under (Noosa, Australia) to deliver an invited talk at The 2014 Bicontinuous Cubic Phases Conference. She also catches up with Tommy Nylander: a friend/mentor back from grad school days in Lund-Sweden.


  • Hojun Kim was selected to attend the Sixteenth National School on Neutron and X-ray Scattering to be held June 14-28, 2014 at Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


May 2014: Traveling

  • Prof. Leal travels to beautiful Santa Barbara, CA to deliver a talk at a DOE workshop entitled: Grand Challenges in Soft Matter. She also visited her postdoc lab (Youli, Kai, and Cyrus):


April 2014: Teaching

  • Prof. Leal takes the MSE473-Biomolecular Materials Science - classroom to the SAXS room. Students investigated the structure of a few biomaterials as a homework assignment:


March 2014: MRS Meeting

  • Hojun and Minjee take a trip to San Francisco, CA to present their research at the MRS society meeting.

February 2014: Outreach

  • Prof. Leal participates as a judge to the “Introducing a Girl to Engineering Day“ organized by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). High School girls spent a day designing products to help the elderly. Prof. Leal was astonished by the creativity of these young girls!


January 2014: Invited talks

  • Prof. Leal delivers a talk in Israel at Tel-Aviv University and the International Symposium of Polyelectrolytes entitled: “Lipoplex topology as modulated by siRNA electrostatic pinning“.

December 2013: Holidays!

  • The Leal lab gathers at Radio Maria for a Holiday dinner


November 2013: Talks

  • Prof. Leal talks about X-ray analysis of biological samples at the MRL Biological Structural Imaging Workshop.

October 2013: New affiliation

  • Prof. Leal in now Affiliated Faculty of the MRL, UIUC.

August 2013: Gordon Conference

  • Prof. Leal attends the Gordon Conference-Soft Condensed Matter Physics in New London, NH.


July 2013: New students

  • The Leal lab welcomes Nicole Ernat as an undergraduate research member!

March 2013: A special new member

  • Newest member of the Leal family is here, welcome Amy Celeste!


February 2013: We are building a lab!

  • The SAXS/WAXS instrument parts (from Forvis Technologies at Santa Barbara, Dr. Youli Li) arrive at the Leal lab, now let’s assemble it! Minjee, Hojun, Grace, and Tamlin working hard on assembling the SAXS instrument:



January 2013: New students

  • The Leal Lab welcomes Tim Ouradnik, Conor Ward, Eunjung Kim, and Adriana Schoenfeldt as undergraduate research members!

November 2012: Traveling to conferences

  • Prof. Leal delivers a talk at the MRS Fall meeting in Boston entitled: "Physical Polymerization of Short DNA (sDNA) Confined within 1D Lipid Tubes Promotes Thermotropic Phase Transitions in sDNA-Lipid Assemblies".

September 2012: It begins!

  • The ”Organizing Functional Soft Matter” Lab welcomes Hojun Kim, Minjee Kang, and Grace Huang as graduate students!