New NSF grant! Soft matter in Mexico

Dr. Ryan McGorty at University of San Diego, and myself, were awarded a grant to do collaborative soft matter research with students in Mexico! NSF 2245406 and NSF 2245405. #NSFFunded

More info below:

We encounter soft materials frequently in our everyday lives from ointments and lotions to paints and inks. Understanding these soft materials, which often possess both fluid-like and solid-like properties, and how they flow or deform is necessary for advancing many technologies, including 3D printing where the properties of the ink or resin must be finely tuned. To make progress on our scientific understanding of soft materials, this IRES Track I project will strengthen collaborations between researchers in Southern California and in Mexico. Each year over the 3-year duration of this project, 6 students will be recruited to take part in this international research experience. U.S. students from historically underrepresented groups and from predominantly undergraduate colleges and community colleges will be targeted in the recruitment effort. Those students will conduct research over the summer at either the Center for Research in Advanced Materials (Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados, CIMAV) in Monterrey, Mexico or the University of Guanajuato in León, Mexico. Working with research mentors in Mexico and the mentors in Southern California, students will take various approaches to study the physics and chemistry of soft materials. Such approaches include using computer simulations to study fundamental aspects of soft materials and using 3D printers to apply our scientific understanding of soft materials to the design and use of new inks and resins. Students taking part in this research and receiving mentorship from U.S. and Mexican scientists will be prepared to cooperate with diverse teams across borders and to become leaders of a globally engaged scientific workforce. 

This IRES project will strengthen collaborations between researchers in the U.S. and Mexico by supporting the participation of 6 undergraduates per year in mentored summer research experiences. The PIs at the University of San Diego and California State University Fullerton will recruit undergraduate students from historically underrepresented groups and from predominantly undergraduate institutions and community colleges. After receiving training on basic research skills, selected students will spend approximately 8 weeks at either the Center for Research in Advanced Materials (Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados, CIMAV) in Monterrey, Mexico or the University of Guanajuato in León, Mexico. Research projects undertaken by students will advance our understanding of soft matter, particularly in the areas of colloid science and rheology. Projects will include investigating the rheology of nanocellulose and cellulose composites for use in 3D printing applications, quantifying the translational and rotational diffusion of anisotropic colloids to better understand transport and microrheology in complex environments, and developing computer simulations of colloidal particles in external fields. These projects will lead to new analysis techniques in microrheology and optical microscopy and will advance the development of inks for 3D printing. The specific objectives of this project are to (1) train and mentor 18 (6 students per year for 3 years) undergraduate students on soft matter research in a collaborative and international environment, (2) develop and foster research collaborations among institutions in the U.S. and Mexico, (3) characterize and harness the rheological properties of complex fluids and gels for enhancing our fundamental knowledge of soft matter and for applying such materials to 3D printing applications, (4) disseminate research outcomes at scientific conferences and in peer-reviewed journals, and (5) develop a cohort of scientists from predominantly underrepresented groups who can network and collaborate effectively with others from various backgrounds and who can draw upon a diverse set of mentors. IRES participants will advance scientific knowledge in projects that range from applied to fundamental using experimental and computational approaches. Students will learn how these diverse approaches used by an international team can address pressing scientific and engineering problems.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

2023 Irwin Oppenheim Award

Congrats to the team for being awarded the 2023 Irwin Oppenheim Award!

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to physics by early career scientists who publish in Physical Review E (PRE). The annual award consists of a $3,000 stipend, a certificate, registration waiver and travel reimbursement to attend the APS March Meeting, and an invitation to speak at the conference.

About Irwin Oppenheim

This best paper award, the first APS award established by a Physical Reviewjournal, honors the founding editor of Physical Review E, Irwin Oppenheim. Under his editorship, the journal grew significantly in both size and scope. A visionary editor, Irwin promoted new areas, including soft matter, biological physics, and complex networks. Physical Review E, with its broad coverage and interdisciplinary scope, continues to embrace Irwin’s editorial philosophy, and the journal is an important part of his legacy.

A distinguished scientist, Irwin Oppenheim studied nonequilibrium phenomena and was a leader in statistical physics and kinetic theory. His illustrious career as a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spanned more than five decades. Irwin is remembered for his warmth and wisdom as a mentor to many students and postdocs who later went on to become prominent in their field. Appropriately, the Irwin Oppenheim Award recognizes early career scientists.

NSF funded projects!

We are happy to announce two newly NSF-funded collaborative projects!  Yay for collaborations with Jennifer Ross and Ben Rogers on NSF-2004566 and Nicholas Brubaker on NSF-2010018!

Collaborative Research: Enzyme-Powered, Programmable Active Matter (#2004566)

Imagine a world in which roads can sense their damage and repair themselves like human skin, or in which natural disasters such as forest fires and landslides are prevented by materials that change shape and stiffness automatically, or in which clothing materials change their porosity to become personal protective equipment (PPE) when the clothing itself senses airborne pathogens. These futuristic ideas are currently science fiction, but if we have any hope of creating these amazing technologies, we need to begin today. This collaborative project seeks to explore the fundamental underpinnings of the materials needed for such applications. Specifically, in order to design any of these futuristic devices, we need to have materials that are self-powered and assembled hierarchically from energy-using building blocks. Luckily, many biological systems, such as cells, plants, and humans, are already capable of sensing their environment and responding by moving, changing shape, or releasing chemicals. The basic building blocks of these biological systems are enzymes, nanoscale machines made of protein that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In order to dissect and begin to create an understanding of how enzymes can animate matter, our team will use enzymes to power new synthetic materials at the nanoscale to microscale. In the future, these nanoscale materials can be assembled themselves to create new larger scale active materials.

RUI: Active Noise in the Dynamics of Self-Propelled Particles – Stochastic Modeling and Experiments (#2010018)

The discovery of the atom in the early 19th century was an incredible scientific achievement and the mathematical developments of the time yielded indispensable modern techniques essential for understanding the behavior of noisy and random processes. These techniques have produced fundamental results in a wide range of fields, such as climatology, astronomy, economics, and many more. Today, in the field of active noisy systems — e.g., the study of objects that propel themselves but are subjected to noise (randomness), such as cells or autonomous robots — there is potentially another important juncture, where both the scientific and mathematical implications can innumerably benefit modern life. This project aims to discover and develop the fundamental mathematical framework for understanding these noisy active systems by developing accurate models of the individual agents, i.e., of a cell or single robot, and testing the models with experimental measurements. Movement of the individuals is a fundamental building block that is vital to explicating the group or flocking behaviors present in, for example, living organisms, robotic explorations, or dynamically-adapting engineered materials. Scientifically, this project will advance our fundamental understanding of active noise and set the stage for developing applications in science and engineering. This research will take place in an interdisciplinary environment and students will be trained in the emerging scientific field of active noise.