Recent News

Mele & Kane Winners of the 2019 Breakthrough Prize

Physicists Eugene Mele and Charles Kane of the School of Arts and Sciences are being recognized for their innovative work on topological insulators. Kane and Mele have been named winners of the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and will share the $3 million award “for new ideas about topology and symmetry in physics, leading to the prediction of a new class of materials that conduct electricity only on their surface.”

Kane, the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Physics, and Mele, also Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Physics, both in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, have long collaborated, sharing ideas and predictions in their field of condensed matter physics. Their theoretical contributions introduced a new class of materials known as topological insulators. These materials have the unique characteristic of being electrical insulators on their interior, but have surfaces that are unavoidably conducting.

news release

State-of-the-Art X-ray Scattering Instrument

In the Spring of 2018, a a brand new instrument for measurements, funded by an NSF-MRI grant with matching support from LRSM and SEAS (and additional building renovations funded by SAS, SEAS, and the Provost) was installed in the LRSM.

The DEXS instrument (“Dual Source and Environmental X-ray Scattering”) incorporates a Xeuss 2.0 small-angle system with Cu and Mo X-ray sources and adjustable sample-detector distances from 7 cm to 6.3 m. This provides scientists with an unprecedent capability to measure structures of materials from the subnanometer to the micron scale on the same instrument. Once the sample is placed in the instrument, all aspects of the measurement are computer-controlled, including collimation and choice of source. The DEXS instrument is also equipped with a wide variety of sample environments and special configurations, including controlled temperature, humidity, grazing incidence, and measurements under tension.

The instrument was commissioned and tested during the summer of 2018, and is now being used by research groups in Materials Science, Physics, and Chemistry, as well as outside academic and industrial users. Anticipated applications of the research being conducted using this instrument include nanoporous metals for energy storage, nanocrystals for light harvesting, polycarbonates in ionic liquids with tunable chemical reactivity, and a variety of others.

$500K Award for New SUPERSeed

The NSF awarded the Penn MRSEC funding ($500K) for a brand new SUPERSeed, entitled Membraneless Organelles with Designed Function from Engineered Assemblies of Intrinsically Disordered Proteins. The objective of the SuperSeed is to construct genetically-encoded materials that predictively self-assemble into micron-size liquid condensates in vitro, and in cells via coacervation of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). The SuperSeed is led by Matthew Good (Cell and Developmental Biology, Bioengineering) and Elizabeth Rhoades, (Chemistry). They will be collaborating with Daniel Hammer and Daeyeon Lee (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) and Jittain Mittal (Lehigh University). The proposed studies leverage team expertise on intrinsically disordered proteins and principles of molecular self-assembly to construct mesoscale structures inside living cells. By integrating computational design and experimentation this team will develop rules that govern the assembly of nanoscale IDPs into organelles. Additionally, synthetic organelles will be engineered to sense the environment and regulate cellular decision-making, thereby mimicking and extending the rules of life that underlie cellular organization. This Penn collaboration was among the winners of  highly competitive summer SuperSeed competition spanning all MRSECs (34 submissions).

Charles Kane and Andrew Rappe Identify New Insulating Material

Charles Kane and Andrew Rappe were part of a team that identified a new class of insulating material that has a conducting surface. The surface is stabilized by a pattern of symmetry similar to the pattern on an ordinary piece of wallpaper. Using a combination of analytical and computational techniques, the team predicted that Sr2Pb3 is a topological Dirac insulator and computed the special features of its surface states. The work, published in Science, is the latest in a string of interdisciplinary successes by this integrated Topological Science Seed project team of the MRSEC. The LRSM has supported the seed, with the goals of establishing new principles in the burgeoning field of topological physics, and translating these principles to real materials.

news release

MAXS Facility helps pave the way for safer smaller batteries and fuel cells

A recent study, published in the journal Nature Materials, suggests a new and versatile kind of solid polymer electrolyte (SPE) that already has twice the proton conductivity of the current state-of-the-art material. It was led by Karen I. Winey, TowerBrook Foundation Faculty Fellow, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and co-supervisor of the LRSM’s Multiple Angle X-ray Scattering (MAXS) facility.

This publication is the result of 10+ years of structural characterization of precise polyethylenes made possible by the MAXS facility.  MAXS was designed to incorporate a broad angular range to capture structural features from 0.26 to 80 nm, which is particularly important for acid- and ion-containing polymer that self-assemble into hierarchical structures.

news release

Jason Burdick Named the Robert D. Bent Professor of Bioengineering

Congratulations to Jason Burdick who has been named the Robert D. Bent Professor of Bioengineering. Jason participates in our MRSEC grant as a member of the Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) on Structural Chemo-Mechanics of Fibrous Networks in which he works on strain reinforcing fibrillar materials. Jason has been a Bioengineering faculty member since 2005. 

read article

Vivek Shenoy Named the Eduardo D. Glandt President's Distinguished Professor in SEAS

Congratulations to Vivek Shenoy, who has been named the Eduardo D. Glandt President’s Distinguished Professor in SEAS. Vivek is co-leader of our Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) on Structural Chemo-Mechanics of Fibrous Networks. He is a theorist who studies mechanisms of plastic deformation in collagen networks, among other materials. Vivek has been a faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering since 2012. He also serves as the director of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Engineering Mechanobiology.

read article

Shu Yang, with IRG3, are Making Atomic Thin Nanosheets Stand Up for Better Energy Storage

In a paper published in Nature, faculty from IRG3: Pluperfect Nanocrystal Architectures reports a fundamentally new and scalable approach to prepare electrodes from atomic thin 2D nanosheets in the vertical orientation via self-assembly. The method beautifully marries soft matter assembly and functional hard nanomaterials by creating a coherent and long-range ordered liquid crystal phase of 2D sheets of titanium carbide, Ti3C2, a member of the MXene family. The resulting electrode films show rapid ion diffusion in thick films, exhibiting unprecedented energy storage performance, retaining almost 100 % of the capacitance after 20,000 cycles of galvanostatic cycling at a rate of 20 A/g, and nearly thickness-independent (up to 200 micrometers, or 0.2 mm), a thicknesses equal to or exceeding that of commercial electrodes.

press release

Philadelphia Science Festival 2018

LRSM graduate students, post-docs, and faculty hosted interactive exhibits at the Philadelphia Science Festival’s Science Carnival, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday, April 28, 2018.  This free, final event of the festival, engaged people of all ages about fields of science. This year, the LRSM sponsored two interactive exhibits at the Science Carnival: “How does levitation work?” run by the Yodh soft matter group, and “Can you move a train with magnets?” run by the Jariwala group from electrical engineering (see full list of volunteers below). The LRSM has participated in the Science Festival since 2011, its inaugural year.   Literally tens of thousands of interested people attended the all-day Carnival.


“Can you move a train with magnets?”

Ravindra Saxena (Masters student, Nanotechnology)
Stefano Roccasecca (Undergraduate student, Physics)
Akshaya Venkatakrishnan (Masters student, Nanotechnology)
Deep Jariwala (Professor, ESE)

“How does levitation work?”

Sophie Ettinger (PhD student, Physics)
Analisa Hill (PhD student, Physics)
Chandan Kumar Mishra (Post doc, Physics)
Alexis de la Cotte (Post doc, Physics)
Xiaoguang Ma (Post doc, Physics)
Arjun Yodh (Professor, Physics)

read more

8th annual Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 saw the 8th annual Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day, a day-long festival hosted by Drexel University Materials Science department and the Penn MRSEC. This event has been held annually since 2011 with an average annual attendance of approximately 1,000 people. This year, volunteers taught Materials Science concepts to elementary and middle school-aged students and their families with hands on demonstrations and workshops. For example, MSE professor Eric Stach performed feats of levitation using high temperature superconductor materials while PhD candidate Lisa Mariani, from Kevin Turner’s MEAM lab, explored soft materials’ properties using everyday materials like strips of scotch tape. Nearly half of the Philly Materials Day demo tables were staffed by 65 graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty from 12 LRSM-affiliated groups.

Other demonstrations included:

  • Magic Liquid Crystal: Is it a liquid or a crystal? (Shu Yang, MSE)
  • Tribology: principles of friction, wear and lubrication (Robert Carpick, MSE)
  • Chemical tools for tackling neurodegenerative disease (E. James Petersson, Chemistry)
  • Shrinky Dink Polymers (Karen Winey, MSE)
  • Bouncy Balls & Borax: Polymerizing Glue (Eric Schelter, Chemistry)
  • Diving Into Different Dimensions (Marija Drndic, Physics)
  • The surprising behavior of soft matter (Arjun Yodh, Physics)
  • Muggle Magic (Fakhraai, Chemistry)
  • Light and Color: From Molecules to LCD Screens (Lee Bassett, ESE)
  • Non-Newtonian Fluids (Steve Szewczyk, MSE)

Read the Penn Current Article

more information

IRG-1 Team Identifies Failure Signatures in Disordered Solids

In a paper published in Science, a team of faculty from IRG-1 (Rearrangements and Softness in Disordered Solids) identified fundamental new connections between microscopic structure and dynamic rearrangements in glassy materials. In this truly interdisciplinary and multi-scale work, the team tested new ideas about “softness” in 15 different experiments and simulations spanning materials whose constituent size spans 7 orders of magnitude, and whose mechanical stiffness spans 13 orders of magnitude.

Penn News Summary

read article

Principal of Condensed Matter: In Honor of Tom Lubensky

A special symposium, entitled ‘Principal of Condensed Matter: In Honor of Tom Lubensky’, took place at the LRSM November 3 and 4, 2017. Tom is a long-time and current member of the LRSM-MRSEC, and he is one of Penn’s leading theoretical physicists. He was awarded the APS Buckley Prize and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, in part for his foundational contributions to soft condensed matter physics. The symposium featured lectures from fifteen of this field’s elite from all over the world leading off with a Quasi-crystal talk by Paul Steinhardt (Princeton), a former Penn faculty and LRSM member, and ending with an exciting talk about characterizing disorder by Paul Chaikin (NYU), a former graduate student, post-doc, and professor at Penn. In between were more speakers including Tom’s son, David, who presented new research in biophysics. The symposium drew well over 100 scientists including many former students, post-docs, collaborators, and friends. The symposium dinner was held at The Study in University City on Saturday evening. Details of the event can be found at

news release

Celebrating the Life and Contributions of an LRSM Founding Father

Approximately 75 colleagues gathered for an all-day memorial to celebrate the life and contributions of LRSM Founding Father, Elias (Eli) Burstein, who, along with Bob Maddin, Robert Hughes, and Norm Hixson, was the driving force in establishing the first academic, interdisciplinary materials lab in the USA in 1960 at Penn, and since then, the LRSM has garnered continuous center funding through 2023. The symposium event was held Friday, October 6, 2017, and featured stories about Eli’s life and scientific achievements from his students and post-docs, faculty colleagues, current and former LRSM directors, and family friends.  The event concluded with a dinner in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology attended by Eli’s wife, Rena, and family. Eli was a man of great stature in the physics community, both at Penn and throughout the world. He died in his 100th year on June 17, 2017.

more information

LRSM Awarded 2017-23 NSF Materials Research Science & Engineering Center (MRSEC)

The Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM) has been awarded a six-year, $22.6 million center grant from the National Science Foundation to support LRSM’s work in cutting-edge materials. The new MRSEC, one of eight selected nationwide, provides crucial support for LRSM’s education and outreach missions, its shared experimental facilities, and the research of three new interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs).

more information

Lisa Tran Takes Fifth Place in the Nikon Small World Competition

This video is of cholesteric liquid crystal double emulsions, with water in the inner and outer phases, and cholesteric liquid crystal in the middle phase. The inner water phase has excess salt, which causes the emulsion to swell over time, thinning out the liquid crystal shell. Surfactant is added into the outer water phase, and as the surfactant absorbs onto the liquid crystal-water interface, the cholesteric responds to the surfactant by forming stripes on its surface. The stripes continue to evolve as the shell thins due to the emulsion swelling.

news release

more information

view all news

Quick News Links

  • Igor Bargatin - Ultrathin, Ultralight ‘Nanocardboard’ news release
  • Zahra Fakhraai is the 2019 Recipient of the John H. Dillon Medal news release
  • Congratulations to LRSM-MRSEC faculty John C. Crocker & Shu Yang Elected to American Physical Society Fellowship news release
  • Shu Yang & Alison Sweeney "Inspired" Future with Giant Clams news release news article
  • Eric Stach & First JEOL NEOARM in the United States news release
  • Shu Yang & Randall Kamien are Making Complex 3-D Surfaces with 2-D Sheets news release
  • Kathleen Stebe, with Randall Kamien, reveal surprising insights into how cells respond to surface curvature news release
  • Raymond Gorte Elected to National Academy of Engineering news release
  • Zahra Fakhraai and Elizabeth Rhoades develop motion capture-like technology for tracking protein shape news release
  • LRSM Outreach is Living in a material world news release
  • Douglas Durian investigates phenomenon in foams in which the average bubble size grows larger news release
  • Kathleen Stebe & Randy Kamien Study Geometry's Role in Cell Behavior news release
  • Lisa Tran & Randy Kamien Demonstrate How to Control Liquid Crystal Patterns news release
  • Daeyeon Lee and Kathleen Stebe Develop Filters That Use Nanoparticles to Prevent Slime Build-up news release
  • Alison Sweeney & Shu Yang Mimick Giant clams to Enhance Biofuel Production news release
  • Shu Yang and KIST Researchers Offer Insights Into Lightweight Material That Expands With Heat  news release
  • The LRSM and other Penn Departments Focus on Helping Colleagues in Puerto Rico  news release
  • Charlie Johnson, Ivan Dmochowski, Jeffery Saven and Others Use New Type of Graphene Sensor to Answer a Fundamental Nanotechnology Question  news release
  • Dennis Discher, and Team, Engineer Macrophages to Engulf Cancer Cells in Solid Tumors.  news release
  • Arjun Yodh Discovers Why Drying Liquid Crystal Drops Leave Unusual ‘Coffee Rings’.  news release
  • Alison Sweeney reveals new findings on how Hatchetfish scatter light for camouflage.  news release
  • Zahra Fakhraai and Yue Zhang Discover a Surprising Property of Glass Surfaces news release
  • Penn Researchers, Lead by Virgil Percec, Push the Limits of Organic Synthesis news release
  • Charlie Johnson, and other MRSEC Researchers, Are Among the First to Grow a Versatile Two-dimensional Material news release
  • Cherie Kagan & Christopher Murray, along with Nader Engheta & James Kikkawa, Demonstrate a ‘Hybrid Nanomanufacturing’ System news release
  • Andrea Liu Helps Solve a Decades-old Question About Glass Transitions news release
  • Tom Lubensky PNAS Paper to Describe Mysterious Rafts in Membranes news release
  • Virgil Percec, Dan Hammer, Paul Heiney, Michael Klein - Cubic Membranes Might Provide Defense of Sick Cells. news release
  • Robert Carpick & Ju Li, Contribute to New Understanding of Friction on Graphene. news release
  • Arjun Yodh Named AAAS Fellow for seminal contributions to the field of experimental soft condensed matter physics, especially in optical measurements and applications in biophysics. news release
  • Penn MRSEC Team Develop Nanoscale ‘Muscles’ Powered by DNA news release
  • Eleni Katifori Finds Straightforward Way to Model Growth of Vein Networks news release
  • Zahra Fakhraai & Robert Riggleman receive 3-year, $1.2 million NSF grant to study molecule packing in ultra-thin glass films news release
  • Philip Nelson explains how he teaches programming in physics class. article
  • Mark Licurse engages Girard College seventh graders in a week-long science program. news release & photos
  • Shu Yang and Randall Kamien Aim to Develop a Nanotech Garment news release
  • Marija Drndić lab builds and tests transistors inside a microscope. news release ACS Nano
  • Andrea Liu elected to the National Academy of Sciences. news release
  • Randy Kamien Wins Prestigious Award in Liquid Crystal Science news release
  • Virgil Percec Puts a New Twist on Chirality news release
  • Amish Patel Demystifies the ‘Dewetting’ Process news release
  • Shu Yang Receives Heilmeier Research Award news release
  • Russell Composto, Zahra Fakhraai, and Daeyeon Lee are leading an international collaboration on Shelter Science news release
  • Dennis Discher Elected to the National Academy of Medicine news release
  • LRSM Faculty, Charlie Johnson and Marija Drndic, awarded $2 million EFRIs for 2D Materials news release
  • Shu Yang group design material that could help diagnose concussions news release
  • Marija Drndić & Jeffery G. Saven Use Nanoscopic Pores to Investigate Protein Structure news release
  • Alison Sweeney - Diving Deep for Alternative Energy news release
  • Ritesh Agarwal & Eugene Mele with Sajal Dhara Discover New Chiral Property of Silicon, With Photonic Applications. news release
  • Dennis Discher and LRSM Collaborators garner Physical Sciences Oncology Center from NIH. news release
  • Former LRSM Student, Krishan L. Luthra, Pioneers a Materials Breakthrough after Decades of Research. read more
  • Kathleen Stebe, Shu Yang, and Randall Kamien: Liquid-crystal-based Compound Lenses That Work Like Insect Eyes news release
  • Virgil Percec Develops Custom Artificial Membranes to Study the Molecular Basis of Disease news release
  • Cherie Kagan & Paulo Arratia - Penn Engineering 2015 Teaching Awards news release
  • New soft matter topical group of the American Physical Society led by Randall Kamien read more
  • Gazette article on Charles Kane's discovery of topological insulators read article
  • Talid Sinno, John Crocker, Kathleen Stebe use 'Soft' Nanoparticles to Model Behavior at Interfaces news release
  • Arjun Yodh and Tom Lubensky Discovers New Liquid Crystal Configurations news release
  • Robert Carpick helps explain Anti-wear Motor Oil Additive properties. news release
  • Nader Engheta & Zahra Fakhraai Develop a Way of Making Light-bending 'Raspberry-like Metamolecules' news release
  • Shu Yang, with help from Daniel Gianola, develop 'smart' windows. news release
  • David Srolovitz Elected to National Academy Of Engineering news release
  • Zahra Fakhraai Awarded Sloan Fellowship news release
  • Penn Student Chronicles the Emergence of Interdisciplinary Science Through Architecture news release
  • A.T. Charlie Johnson & Ritesh Agarwal Develop New Technique for Making Graphene Competitor, Molybdenum Disulfide news release
  • Philip Nelson discusses the ins and outs of authoring a science textbook news release
  • Shu Yang Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow news release
  • Randall Kamien and Shu Yang, Outline Basic Rules for Construction With a Type of Origami [ news release
  • Charles Kane and Eugene Mele, Win Benjamin Franklin Medal news release
  • Douglas Durian (U Penn) in collaboration with Remi Dreyfus (CNRS/Solvay), as part of the joint Compass laboratory, have studied the morphology of fingered flow in laboratory models of sandy soils with hydrogel particle additives. view paper
  • Alison Sweeney Receives 2014 Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering read more
  • Arjun Yodh's group research helps uncover mechanism behind Solid-Solid Phase Transitions news release
  • Marija Drndic, Jennifer Lukes and Christopher Murray Study Nanocrystals by Passing Them Through Tiny Pores. news release
  • Virgil Percec, Paul Heiney: 'Onion' Vesicles for Drug Delivery news release C&EN article
  • Arjun Yodh Reappointed Director of LRSM read more
  • RET Alumn, Trey Smith receives Teacher as Hero Award read more
  • Charles Kane Elected to National Academy of Sciences news release
  • Philadelphia Science Festival 2014 read more
  • Science at the Sixers with Matthew Lohr and Daniel Beller highlight
  • Paulo Arratia - ‘Design for Failure’ With Model Material news release
  • Tom Lubensky and Charles Kane are "Stretching Boundaries" read more
  • Yodh, Lubensky and Collings are Turning Water Droplets Into ‘Gemstones’ news release PNAS link
  • Randy Kamien: Planting a Liquid-Crystal Garden read more press release
  • Shu Yang: superhydrophobic coatings watch video
  • Stebe, Kamien & Yang Add Another Tool in Their Directed Assembly Toolkit read more
  • Karen Winey: Computer Model That Will Help Design Flexible Touchscreenss read more
  • Dennis Discher and Stem Cell Differentiation read more
  • Kagan group ground breaking research published in ACS Nano demonstrates in-situ repair of nanocrystal surfaces allows large-area nanocrystal device fabrication in air and solvents. read article in ACS Nano
  • Research by Arjun Yodh of Physics and Astronomy indicates that stuttering may be caused by blood flow and hemodynamic changes in parts of the brain that control speech. read more
  • Dawn Bonnell, NBIC Director, appointed to Vice Provost for Research
  • MRSEC Team members win a $2 million, four-year NSF grant
  • Randy Kamien named Simons Investigator
  • Drndic: Advance in Nanotech Gene Sequencing Technique
  • LRSM-COMPLOIDS Workshop on Soft Matter April 17-19
  • Jennifer A. Lewis, "Printing Functional Materials" 3:00PM, LRSM Auditorium poster
  • Dennis Discher: "Protein 'Passport' That Help Nanoparticles Get Past Immune System" highlight
  • Dawn Bonnell Elected to National Academy of Engineering press release
  • Crocker & Sinno Use DNA to Make Crystals That Can Switch Configurations press release
  • Yodh, Durian groups Show Math Behind Growth of 'Coffee Rings' press release
  • Randall Kamien and Tom Lubensky, Help Create 'Recipe Book' for Building New Materials. press release
  • Penn team making waves with liquid crystals read more press release
  • SAS Interview with Charles Kane on Topological Insulators read article
  • LRSM Science Café @ World Cafe Live read more
  • Russell J. Composto receives NSF Special Creativity Award read more
  • Facilities for Nanotechnology in Philadelphia workshop 1.8.13 more info
  • Daeyeon Lee on crack-free nanoparticle films read more
  • Charles Kane Named Simons Investigator and Awarded $500,000 Grant read more
  • Watch video recorded during LRSM's 50th Celebration! watch the videos
  • Charles Kane Named Simons Investigator and Awarded $500,000 Grant read more
  • Kathleen Stebe Shows New Way of Assembling Particles Into Complex Structures read more
  • Daniel Hammer: Natural Plant Protein Into Drug-delivery Vehicles read more
  • Charlie Johnson Expands the Use of Carbon Nanotubes read more
  • Celebrating LRSM's 50th! read more
  • PREM Event: The New Science of Disordered Materials view poster
  • 2nd COMPASS Symposium March 28, 2012 view poster
  • Dennis Discher Elected to National Academy of Engineering read more
  • Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day, February 4, 2012 read more
  • Lukes and Winkelstein named 2012 Penn Fellows
  • Charlie Kane, 2012 Oliver E. Buckley Prize more
  • LRSM-NIMS Materials Workshop read more
  • Inside cover Advanced Materials, December 8, 2011 read article
  • LRSM awarded a six-year MRSEC grant from the NSF read more
  • Sensing membrane stress with near IR-emissive porphyrins