Sharon C. Glotzer and Ronald G. Larson have received prestigious American Physical Society prizes. Glotzer, the Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering, received the Aneesur Rahman Prize for outstanding achievement in computational physics research. Larson, the George Granger Brown Professor and A.H. White Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Engineering, received the Polymer Physics Prize for outstanding achievement in polymer science.
Glotzer and Larson are among the five University of Michigan faculty members to receive American Physical Society prizes this year.
Sharon Glotzer, the Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering and the John Werner Cahn Distinguished University Professor of Engineering, is the recipient of the American Physical Society 2019 Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics. The prize recognizes outstanding achievement in computational physics research specifically “for innovative molecular dynamics simulations of the self-assembly of variously shaped particles which opened up new directions in soft matter and materials science research.”
Professor Glotzer’s research uses fast supercomputers made from graphics processors to investigate how particles self-assemble in order to engineer new materials and manipulate matter at the molecular and nanoparticle level to create novel structures. One contribution of Professor Glotzer and her research team is the idea of “patchy particles,” a conceptual approach to modeling, understanding and designing nanoparticles. This has led to a variety of investigations on self-organization and self-assembly.
One of her research interests is in modeling matter assembled from shapes. An example of this is studying how polyhedral shapes self-assemble from a random orientation into an ordered structure. In this area, her team has developed a “shape space diagram,” which shows how matter self-organizes into an ordered material based on the shape used for the constituent particles. This makes it possible to predict the type and structure of ordered material that will emerge from a system of randomly oriented particles. Professor Glotzer and her team showed that, counterintuitively, entropy alone can assemble shapes into many structures, which has implications in materials science, thermodynamics, mathematics, nanotechnology, biology, and more.
Professor Glotzer also holds positions as Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor of Applied Physics, Professor of Physics, and Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Her group additionally develops open-source software including a particle simulation toolkit called HOOMD-blue, an analysis toolkit called freud, and a workflow management framework called signac.
The Rahman Prize was established in 1992 with support from IBM Corporation as a means of recognizing outstanding work and disseminating information in computational physics.
Ronald G. Larson, the George Granger Brown Professor and A.H. White Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Engineering, was recently awarded the American Physical Society 2019 Polymer Physics Prize, the highest honor in the field of polymer science.
The prize recognizes outstanding achievement in polymer science, and this year, recognizes Larson’s “wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary contributions to understanding the structure, dynamics, and rheology of polymeric materials in melt, solution, glassy, mesomorphic, and multi-phase states, including viscoelastic instabilities, constitutive equations, alignment transitions, and phase behavior.”
Larson’s research on complex fluids—substances such as polymers with an internal structure that gives them solid-like properties, but still permits liquid-like flow —are being used to help in the development of safer medicines, and better paints and consumer products. Larson and his research team combine experimental, theoretical and computational components to better understand the relationship between a complex fluid’s structure and its rheological, or flow, properties. By discovering and harnessing this knowledge, Larson and his research team can better predict and alter the behavior of complex fluids.
Larson’s current research focuses on better understanding the rheology of surfactant solutions, including those used in shampoos and body washes, and on the flow-induced crystallization in the shaping of polymers into everyday products, such films and containers.
Larson also has appointments in the Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Macromolecular Science and Engineering departments. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and served as chair of the Chemical Engineering Department from 2000-2008 and as the interim chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department from 2013-2014.
The Polymer Physics Prize, now primarily supported by The Dow Chemical Company, was established in 1960 to recognize outstanding accomplishment and excellence of contributions in polymer physics research.
Carol E. Rabuck and Alexa Rakoski, of the U-M Department of Physics, contributed to this story.