Recent News

Compression Leads to Stiffening in Tissues But Not Biopolymer Gels

Even though the cells in soft tissue contain network of filamentous polymers and are imbedded within extracellular matrices made from chemically distinct but physically similar polymers, they respond differently to compression and stretch compared to the polymer networks alone. Work by two groups within the MRSEC reveal that this difference arises when volume conserving cells are placed in a filamentous network and constrain the way these networks can reorient when the system is deformed. This work,led by Paul Janmey, Professor in the Perelman School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and in Penn Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering, and Vivek Shenoy, Eduardo D. Glandt President’s Distinguished Professor in Penn Engineering’s Department of Materials Science, resulted from extensive use of instrumentation in the viscoelastic characterization lab in the LRSM and on experimental and theoretical work supported by the MRSEC.

press release

LRSM Team Creates and Understands Novel Chiral Microparticles

Helen Ansell, Dae Seok Kim, Eleni Katifori, and Randall Kamien are part of a team that studied the spontaneous formation of chiral microparticles with submicron features. The surface structure is stabilized by liquid crystalline order in the initial spherical droplets. Using a combination of analytic and computational techniques, the team established that the patterns on the surface corresponded to loxodromes — paths of constant angle with respect to the lines of longitude. The work, published in Physical Review Letters, is the latest in a string of interdisciplinary success by the IRG on Pluperfect materials. The LRSM has had a long history of mixing chemistry, materials, and physics and continues to do so.

news release

An Authentic Research Experience for Undergraduates

Angelica Padilla recently participated in the LRSM’s NSF-supported Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. The program dates back to 1988 and has seen almost 700 participants. The 10 week summer program immerses students in hands-on research, supervised by a faculty member associated with the LRSM. Each student works on independent research projects and adopts similar roles as graduate students, thereby giving them an authentic research experience. Angelica, a senior chemical and biomolecular engineering student at Penn, worked in Paulo Arratia’s Complex Fluids lab where she studied active fluids. Here, she shares her experience.

news release

J. Robert Schrieffer: The LRSM’s first Nobel Laureate

John Robert ‘Bob’ Schrieffer died on July 27, 2019 in Tallahassee, Fl., at the age of 88. Bob was the first of five Nobel Prize winners working at the LRSM when, in 1972, along with John Bardeen and Leon Cooper, he won it for their Theory of Superconductivity, conventionally known as the BCS Theory. Bob said that he had the breakthrough idea (as a graduate student) on the New York Subway while attending a conference in early 1957 — strokes of genius can occur anywhere at any time. Born in Oak Park, IL, Bob studied electrical engineering at M.I.T. for two years before switching to Physics and graduating in 1953. He completed his Ph.D. at U. Illinois with John Bardeen in 1957. He spent almost 20 years as a distinguished member of the Physics Department at the University of Pennsylvania, 1962-80; during this entire period he was a key member in defining the activities of the LRSM and its ARPA- and NSF-funded materials center. Among other contributions, he helped develop the Su-Schrieffer-Heeger model for polyacetylene, including its topological solitons, and he also did important work on surface science and chemisorption before leaving Penn to become Director of the Theoretical Physics Institute at UC, Santa Barbara. In 1992, Bob moved to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he was the lab’s chief scientist. He received other honors, such as the National Medal of Science in 1983, and he served as president of the American Physical Society in 1996.

news release

Gene Mele Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Congratulations to our friend and colleague Eugene J. (Gene) Mele,  Christopher H. Browne Professor of Physics and Astronomy, who has just been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (2019).  Gene is best known for his work, with Charles Kane, on topological insulators. Additionally however, for almost 40 years, Gene has been a key contributor to the LRSM community, especially to our NSF MRL and MRSEC centers. Amidst this “other” important research are extensive theoretical contributions to LRSM efforts on carbon nanotubes and buckyballs, graphene, and many aspects of surface science. Gene was also awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2019), the Franklin Medal (2015), and the Europhysics Prize for CMP (2010).

news release

Robert Maddin: A Founding Father of the LRSM

Robert Maddin, one of the four founders of the LRSM, died on March 3, 2019 at age 100. Bob was born in Hartford CT in 1918. He graduated from Yale with a doctorate in engineering in 1948, and he joined the Metallurgy department at Penn in 1955, just after it formed, as Professor of Metallurgy and Director of the School of Metallurgical Engineering, a position he held until 1972. In January, 1973 he was appointed University Professor, a position he held until his retirement in 1983. Along with Eli Burstein, Robert Hughes, and Norman Hixson, he was responsible for the creation of the LRSM in 1960. He was a member of the LRSM Executive committee and was well known for his work on mechanical properties, phase transitions, and defects in metal single crystals, alloys, and metallic glasses. He was also department chair of Materials Science and Engineering (formerly Metallurgy) from 1972-83. In 1983 he joined Harvard as a professor of Anthropology, worked on ancient metallurgy, and was also a curator in the Peabody Museum. The LRSM will continued to honor and remember him, as it has for many years, through sponsorship of the Maddin Lectures which bring prominent materials researchers to Penn.


Christopher B. Murray Elected to the N.A.E.

We congratulate Christopher Murray, Richard Perry University Professor and Professor in the Departments of  both Materials Science and Engineering, and Chemistry as a Penn Integrates Knowledge faculty member. Chris has just been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) “for invention and development of solvothermal synthesis of monodisperse nanocrystal quantum dots for displays, photovoltaics, and memory.” Chris is an intellectual leader in the MRSEC, especially as a core contributor to both of our nanocrystal IRGs during the last two funding cycles (links below).  Chris has also been a strong participant in our education and outreach efforts, including the PREM program with the  University of Puerto Rico. His scientific contributions include (but are not limited to) the development of nanocrystalline materials broadly defined, for example the creation of “artificial atoms” — nanocrystals or quantum dots — that self-assemble into devices with completely new multi-functionalities.

IRG3: Pluperfect Nanocrystal Architectures
IRG4: Controlled Function in Inter-dimensional Materials (2011-17)

news release

Former LRSM Director, Donald N. Langenberg, Passes, January 25, 2019

Donald Newton Langenberg (image taken at the LRSM 50th Anniversary Symposium, 2012)

The LRSM recently lost an old friend and former Director, Don Langenberg, who passed away on January 25, 2019 at age 86. Don joined the Physics department at Penn in 1960, where he specialized in low temperature solid state physics, specifically focusing on electronic band structure in metals and semiconductors. He later carried out classic experiments on quantum phase coherence and non-equilibrium effects in superconductors for which he became a world authority. In 1972 he became director of the LRSM. This was an important time, in part because the source of LRSM funding was changing from ARPA to NSF. Don led the effort to garner our first major center funding from the NSF, through the so-called Materials Research Lab (MRL) program. The LRSM Director position, which he carried out with aplomb, was his first foray into administration and represented the beginning of a highly successful transition to administration (broadly defined). In 1974 he was appointed vice-provost for graduate studies and research at Penn and from 1974-77 was member of the Advisory Committee on Research of the NSF. From 1975-80 he was a Trustee of Associated Universities before becoming Acting Director of the NSF, 1980, and Deputy Director 1980-82. In 1983 he became Chancellor of the University of Illinois, Chicago, 1983-1990, and then Chancellor of the University of Maryland System, 1990-2002, after which he became Chancellor Emeritus on his retirement.

Among Don’s other achievements: he was a Trustee of Penn ,1990-2000, President, American Association for the Advancement of Science,1991, Chair, Board of Directors, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, 1991, and President of the American Physical Society, 1993. Other awards he has received include the John Price Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute and the Distinguished Contribution to Research Administration Award of the Society of Research Administrators, in addition to honorary degrees from several universities.

more information

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.

more: Penn Today news item on Kane & Mele accepting their award.
related: BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

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

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Quick News Links

  • Liang Wu Receives the William L. McMillan Award, Forbes 30 Under 30  news release
  • Liang Feng is Working on New Topological Insulators That Reroute Photonic ‘Traffic’  news release
  • Marija Drndić Organizes NSF Workshop "Enabling Quantum Leap"  news release
  • Zhen & Mele Discover New Topological Phases news release
  • LRSM's Xeuss 2.0 X-ray scattering instrument is helping the Murray group design better fuel cells news release
  • Agarwal, Kane, Mele, and Rappe Research Quantum Materials That Can Be Controlled With Light news release
  • Shu Yang Demonstrates Reversible Adhesive That Works Like Snail Slime news release
  • Lee Bassett Designs Nanostructured Diamond Metalens For Compact Quantum Technologies news release
  • Bo Zhen is pushing the boundaries of optics news release
  • Ivan Dmochowski - Alan MacDiarmid Term Professor news release
  • Liang Feng - NSF Career Award news release
  • Deep Jariwala - YIP Award news release
  • Charles Kane and Eugene Mele receive the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award news release
  • Virgil Percec, the chemistry behind cellular communication news release
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  • Zahra Fakhraai is the 2019 Recipient of the John H. Dillon Medal news release
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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