Faculty Research

Photo of Monica Olvera de la Cruz

Monica Olvera de la Cruz

  • Elastic Shells
  • Elastic Driven Self Assembly
  • Electrostatics at Liquid Interfaces
  • Ionic Gels
  • Co-assembly of Biological and Synthetic Molecules
  • Statistics, Thermodynamics and Dynamics of Complex Molecular Fluids
  • Atomistic Modeling
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Michael Bedzyk

  • Semiconductor and metal-oxide surface structures
  • Liquid/solid interface
  • X-ray probes for Ultra-thin-films and Nanostructures
  • Nanoscale Structures
  • In Situ X-ray Synchrotron
  • Molecular self-assembly
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Michelle Driscoll

Michelle is a soft condensed matter experimentalist, and her research lies at the interface between soft-matter physics and fluid dynamics. Her lab focuses on understanding how structure and patterns emerge in a driven system, and how to use this structure formation as a new way to probe nonequilibrium systems. She studies emergent structures in a diverse array of driven systems, from the microscopic (driven colloidal suspensions) to the more table-top (fracturing meta-materials). By developing a deeper understanding of patterns and structures which emerge dynamically in a driven material, we can learn not only how these structures can be controlled, but also how to use them to connect macroscopic behavior to microscopic properties.

Driscoll Physics Lab

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Erik Luijten

  • Colloidal systems
  • Electrostatically driven self-assembly
  • Algorithm development
  • Polymeric materials
Photo of Mani  Madhav

Mani Madhav

  • Model-driven measurement of forces in living epithelia
  • Mechanical-feedback in morphogenesis
  • Spatially patterned differentiation
  • Transcriptional-advection and morphogenesis
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John Marko

  • The application of statistical mechanics and polymer physics to biophysical problems
  • Micromechanical studies of DNA, DNA-protein interactions, and chromosome structure
  • Experimental and theoretical research
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Mark Ratner

  • Electron transfer, electron transport, and electron dynamics
  • Molecular assemblies, packing, and interactions
  • Quantum Dynamics, and its relation to environmental baths and decoherence
  • Organic devices, both single-molecule and adlayer-based
  • Energy applications of several sorts
Photo of George  Schatz

George Schatz

  • Optical properties of nanoparticles and nanoparticle arrays and aggregates
  • DNA structure, thermodynamics, and dynamics
  • Self-assembly of soft materials
  • Mechanical properties of nanomaterials
  • Exciton formation, relaxation and thermal transport
Photo of Sam  Stupp

Sam Stupp

  • Self-Assembly
  • Energy Materials 
  • Biomaterials
Photo of Igal  Szleifer

Igal Szleifer

  • Biophysics of Lipids
  • Biologically Inspired Nanomaterials
  • Responsive Polymer Layers
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Danielle Tullman-Ercek

CCTSM Catalyst Award Recipient
  • Determining rules for protein shell assembly
  • Engineering protein shells for new geometries and functions
  • Controlling transport across biological membranes
  • Scaffolding inorganic nanostructures on biological templates
  • Producing protein biomaterials with designed properties
Photo of Petia Vlahovska

Petia Vlahovska

Petia is an applied mathematician with interdisciplinary training in chemistry and engineering.  Her research is in non-equilibrium soft condensed matter (emergent phenomena and self-organization in active matter, directed colloidal assembly, nonlinear microparticle dynamics, rheology of complex fluids), fluid dynamics (electrohydrodynamics and electrokinetics, fluid instabilities, interfacial flows, viscous flows) and membrane biophysics (biomembrane electromechanics, thermal shape fluctuations). Integrating theory and experiment, she explores the interrelation between the microscale physics, microstructure, and macroscopic behavior of soft materials out-of-equilibrium.

Vlahovska's website

Research Associate/Postdoc Research

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Baofu Qiao

Research Assistant Professor
Email Baofu
  • Soft matter
  • Self-assembly
  • Bio-inspired nanomaterials
  • Heavy elements
  • Quantitative noncovalent interactions
Photo of Felipe Jimenez Angeles

Felipe Jimenez Angeles

Senior Research Associate
Office: Cook Hall 4033
Email Felipe
  • Adsorption and Self-assembling of Macromolecules at Interfaces
  • Wettability and Interfacial Phenomena
  • Charge Adsorption and Energy Storage in Nanostructures
  • Statistical Mechanics of Confined Complex Fluids
  • Molecular Recognition
  • Nucleation
  • Molecular Engineering of Functional Molecules for Diverse Applications
  • Interfaces and Mesophases in Soft Materials

I am collaborating in the group of Prof. Monica Olvera in modeling the adsorption and self-assembling of macromolecules at interfaces. My interests lie in scientific problems related to energy and environmental sustainability. My approach consists of gaining a fundamental understanding of the phenomena occurring at mesoscopic scales. New technologies can be designed by understanding how many-body forces work. I perform molecular engineering of systems using theoretical methods and molecular simulations. My past research focused on modeling charge adsorption and energy storage in nanostructures and self-assembling mechanisms. My recent work is on nucleation mechanisms of gas hydrates; molecular engineering of functional molecules for gas hydrates inhibition; self-assembling of surfactant nanostructures at liquid-solid interfaces; wettability and interfacial phenomena in oil-water-mineral substrate systems. My future research plan comprehends designing nanomaterials for efficient storage and transportation of energy, capture, and sequestration of greenhouse gases, and soft materials for diverse applications.

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Trung Nguyen

Research Assistant Professor
Email Trung
  • Electrostatics in soft matter system
  • Protein-copolymer interactions
  • Self-assembly of soft matter building blocks such as macromolecules, nanoparticles and colloids
  • High-performance computing with GPUs and MPI
Trung's research in Prof. Olvera de la Cruz's group focuses on several fundamental and practical topics in soft matter physics. These include 1) how to stabilize numerous enzymes in organic solvents using copolymers, 2) how to take into account electrostatic interactions between charged particles across media with different dielectric constants accurately and efficiently, and 3) how to speed up coarse-grained molecular simulations in massively parallel software packages and high-performance computing environments. To address these topics, he develops new computational models, implements efficient algorithms and performs large-scale molecular simulations using advanced sampling techniques. The findings of these studies offer insights into molecular and mesocopic systems and help design new functional materials.
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Debarshee Bagchi

Postdoctoral Scholar
Email Debarshee
  • Coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulation
  • Electrostatics in soft-matter system
  • Interfaces with dielectric mismatch
  • Statistical mechanics of long-range interacting systems
I joined the Olvera group as a postdoc in January 2018. My present research involves theoretical modeling and coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulation of soft-matter systems, such as charged polymers solutions (polyelectrolytes), in presence of interfaces with different dielectric constants. This problem is important both from theoretical as well as application point of view. First, it is challenging to model such systems, since presence of long-range electrostatic interaction complicates analytical and simulation studies of such system. Second, at interfaces with different dielectric constants one also has to take into account the effects of polarization which turns out to be a very nontrivial task. These two factors - long-range interactions and polarization effects - give rise to a host of intriguing features in such systems. Besides these theoretical aspects, study of confined polyelectrolyte systems is also useful in the fabrication of efficient renewable energy storage devices e.g., super-capacitors. The broad final aim of my study is to understand the physics of charged polymers confined between charged dielectric media in different solvents and how it affect the systems ability to store charge and energy.
Photo of Hector Manuel Lopez de la Cerda Rios

Hector Manuel Lopez de la Cerda Rios

Graduate Student
Email Hector Manuel
  • Self-assembly systems
  • Kinetics and transport phenomena in biological systems
  • Molecular dynamics and electrostatics   

As a member of Prof. Monica Olvera de la Cruz’s group, we primarily work in understanding the aggregation and formation of phase states of biological polymers such as DNA and proteins in a myriad of media. Depending upon the type of media, we can observe, by using simulations, the formation of membranes and other types of interesting collective behavior. It is in ensuing studies that we can test physical properties of interest of the aforementioned soft materials which can be applied in the pharmaceutical industry and others. Our approach to studying these complex systems relies on thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and coarse-grained modeling. 

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Rikkert Nap

Postdoctoral Scholar, Biomedical Engineering
Email Rikkert
My research focuses on the investigation of neutral polymers and polyelectrolytes tethered to various curved surfaces, seeking both fundamental as well as practical understanding of their biomedical applications. We have applied a molecular theory developed with the research group to the understanding of, for example, the binding of polymer tethered micelles and solid nano particles to cell surfaces for drug delivery devices. Likewise the behavior of cylindrical weak polyelectrolytes as a model system for Aggrecan molecules is being investigated.