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October 26, 2009

$3 Million NSF Grant Teams CCNY, U. of Chicago to Define New Field

It is not often that a group of scientists get to define a field of study.  But, that is what Dr. Jeffrey Morris, Professor of Chemical Engineering in The Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York (CCNY), and colleagues at CCNY and the University of Chicago are attempting to do.

Professor Morris is principal investigator on a new, five-year $3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that establishes a Partnership in Research and Education in Materials (PREM) at CCNY in collaboration with the University of Chicago’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.  The “overarching goal of the partnership is to develop methodology for description of material dynamics” as an emerging branch of materials science.Professor Jeffrey Morris (right) with Professor Taehun Lee and graduate student Lus Amaya 

“While materials science usually looks at substances in a static state, materials dynamics examines them while in a state of flow during the manufacturing process,” he explains.  The field has application to the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, petroleum-based products, chemicals and personal care products such as shampoo and cosmetics.   

In addition, the grant, which was funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will provide high-quality education and research opportunities for students from underrepresented groups.  In turn, it will help them get in on the ground floor of a new area of study.  It will also fund the hiring of two post-docs and an administrative assistant and support as many as 10 graduate students, Professor Morris noted.

The collaboration combines CCNY’s strengths in simulation and modeling with the University of Chicago’s expertise in experiment design and theory to develop design principles for next-generation materials.  Research investigations will study the role of dynamics in making new materials in both heterogeneous and particulate systems.  Particulate systems, such as blood cells, have discrete particles, while heterogeneous systems are more general and may consist, for example, of droplets or foamed material.   

Topics for study will include the dynamics of droplets during impact, i.e. how they spread on a surface; novel assembly techniques using micron-sized particles and bio-molecules and assemblies of colloidal and granular particles.  The projects will be organized in a “student-centric” way so that there are mentoring opportunities and research opportunities appropriate for students at levels ranging from high school to post-doctoral work.   

“Students and faculty members will interact up and down the chain,” said Dr. Mark Shattuck, Associate Professor of Physics at CCNY and co-principal investigator on the grant.  “High school students will be able to see the entire path to becoming a professor.”

In addition to Professor Shattuck, Dr. Sidney Nagel, Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago, is a co-principal investigator.  Other CCNY faculty members supported through the grant are: Dr. Joel Koplik, Professor of Physics; Dr. Charles Watkins, Herbert G. Kayser Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Dr. Taehun Lee, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Dr. Ilona Kretzschmar, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Raymond Tu, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering.

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