Condensed Matter and Biophysics Experiment

The experimental condensed-matter group is focused on elucidating the complex relationship between materials science and biology.

The entire experimental group are members of the Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center in which interdisciplinary teams elucidate the role that material properties play in the structure and function of cells and exploit this knowledge to create new categories of materials.

In one approach, biological structures are used for “bottom-up” assembly of novel biomaterials with unique properties. In a complementary “top-down” approach, materials properties of functioning biological structures are examined in order to determine how they give rise to specific biological function. From a techniques perspective there is a strong emphasis on various microscopy methods and microfluidic technology. There are close interactions with the condensed-matter theory group in the physics department as well as various faculty from departments of chemistrybiochemistry and biology.

Faculty

Professor Seth Fraden and his group seek to understand the relation between interparticle interactions and phase transitions in colloidal suspensions such as genetically engineered viruses, latex, proteins and polymers. Combining experiment, computer simulation and theory, Fraden examines the role of entropy in driving disorder-to-order transitions.

One application is in nanotechnology, where entropy-driven assembly principles are being developed to construct novel layered materials. Other major objectives are to understand the physics of protein crystallization and the development of “lab on a chip” technology, which incorporates microfluidics to build high throughput devices for biotechnology.

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Professor Ben Rogers and his research group aim to develop quantitative tools to understand and control interactions between colloidal particles, with the ultimate goal of prescribing self-assembly of materials. Together, they employ a strategy integrating concepts from dynamic DNA nanotechnology, theoretical models, and detailed measurements of interparticle forces, which emerge from Watson-Crick base pairing of DNA, deformation of interfaces, or programmed interactions with the solute. Their current interests include elucidating the role of adhesion and membrane curvature energies in binding of solid particles to fluid membranes, designing responsive nanoscale materials by controlling phase transitions in colloidal suspensions, and understanding how coupled chemical reactions give rise to active materials, which can move, self-organize, and repair.

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Guillaume Duclos

Professor Duclos and his research group are positioned at the interface of complex fluids and biological physics where they focus on understanding the emergence of collective behaviors in highly simplified out-of-equilibrium systems. In particular, their group employs bottom-up approaches with purified cytoskeletal proteins and biological polymers to study the physical principles underlying the self-organization and dynamics of active complex fluids. They also use the framework of liquid crystal physics and soft matter physics to study the organization and dynamics of multi-cellular tissues. Their goal is to understand how cells coordinate their motion, their shape and the mechanical/chemical interactions with their neighbors to give rise to complex collective behaviors.

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