Response to stimulus is a basic process of living systems. Based on the lessons from nature, scientists have been designing useful materials that respond to external stimuli such as temperature, pH, light, electric field, chemicals and ionic strength. These responses are manifested as dramatic changes in one of the following: shape, surface characteristics, solubility, formation of an intricate molecular self-assembly or a sol-to-gel transition. Applications of stimuli-responsive, or 'smart', polymers in delivery of therapeutics, tissue engineering, bioseparations, sensors or actuators have been studied extensively and numerous papers and patents are evidence of rapid progress in this area. Understanding the structure-property relationship is essential for the further development and rational design of new functional smart materials. For example, kinetic and thermodynamic control of the coil-to-globule transition could be achieved through changes in polymer composition and topology.