John Dutcher

Headshot of John Dutcher
Professor, CEPS Research Chair in Novel Sustainable Nanomaterials and Director Nanoscience
Department of Physics
Phone number: 
(519) 824-4120 ext. 53950
MACN 451
Seeking academic or industry partnerships in the area(s) of: 
Sustainable nanomaterials and polymers
Available positions for grads/undergrads/postdoctoral fellows: 
Positions are available at all levels


Sophisticated tools to characterize the structure, dynamics and mechanical properties of polymers, biopolymers and bacterial cells at surfaces and interfaces.

Education and Employment Background 

Dr. John Dutcher received his PhD in Condensed Matter Physics from Simon Fraser University in 1989. He completed an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Arizona before joining the University of Guelph’s Department of Physics in 1990, where he currently serves as Professor. He is also Director of the University of Guelph’s B.Sc. Nanoscience program. 

Research Themes

Dutcher’s research focuses on the physics of synthetic polymers, sustainable polymers and nanostructured biomaterials, with applications in personal care, biomedicine and sustainable nanotechnology. His lab uses a broad range of state-of-the-art experimental nanotools to study the fundamental physical properties and underlying mechanisms of these systems, which is at the heart of new materials development. His research focuses on the following major themes:

  1. Implementing a broad range of sophisticated techniques to study the fundamental properties of phytoglycogen nanoparticles, which are produced in the form of highly-branched, compact nanoparticles in sweet corn. The unique properties of these natural nanoparticles, coupled with their high safety profile, make them ideal for applications involving the human body, such as personal care, nutrition and biomedicine. This research has led to two spin-off companies, Mirexus Biotechnologies Inc. and Glysantis, which are commercializing the PhytoSpherix and NanoDendrix technologies for personal care and biomedical applications.
  2. Developing new experimental and data analysis methodologies for evaluating the uniformity and reliability of crosslinked polyethylene (PEX-a) pipe for domestic and industrial water applications. This work involves the application of infrared microscopy, x-ray diffraction and machine learning concepts to identify key differences between different pipe formulations and to study the effect of accelerated ageing on their performance and reliability. This work will result in better, more environmentally friendly formulations of PEX-a pipe. 
  3. Characterizing the collective twitching motion of bacteria on surfaces using optical microscopy and custom image analysis techniques. Understanding this form of bacterial motility is important since it facilitates the formation of bacterial biofilms on surfaces. However, a detailed understanding of the overall motion of the cells in densely-packed conditions, such as the leading edge of expanding bacterial colonies, remains elusive. This research has implications for understanding and reducing the spread of bacterial infections. 


  • Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Soft Matter and Biological Physics since 2006
  • Elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (2007)
  • Co-founded Mirexus Biotechnologies, a natural nanomaterials company based in Guelph that commercializes the PhytoSpherix technology based on phytoglycogen nanoparticles discovered in the Dutcher laboratory
  • Received Innovation of the Year award from the University of Guelph for developing the PhytoSpherix technology (2017)
  • Special Advisory Editor for Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics and has served as a member of Editorial Advisory Boards for Soft Matter Journal, Colloid and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, Scientific Reports

Media Coverage

Naturally-derived nanoparticles can improve health and personal care products:

Mirexus Biotechnologies Inc. Receives Funding

Sweet Corn Nanoparticles Research Receives Innovation of the Year Award