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Chair's Distinguished Lecture 2020

sharon glotzer

Sharon C. Glotzer

University of Michigan
Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering; Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; John W. Cahn Distinguished University Professor of Engineering; Stuart W. Churchill Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering

Engineering Colloidal Matter, Assembly Pathways and the Entropic Bond

Monday, November 2, 2020 | 2:30–3:30 p.m. PST 


The ability to design and make the perfect material with just the right properties to do what we want, how we want, and when we want is the holy grail of materials research. Such “materials on demand” require control over thermodynamics, kinetics, nonequilibrium behavior and structure across many length and timescales. At the start of this new decade, we have never been closer to the goal, but many challenges – and opportunities – remain. Many of those are at the boundaries of the subfields of materials research, where ideas from one area spur advances in others, and where tools and concepts are transferable across domains and scales. Moreover, foundational understanding at one scale can help understand new discoveries at different scales, regardless of the nature of the material and the forces holding it together.

In this lecture, we show how atomic and molecular crystal structures — made possible by chemical bonds at Angstrom scales — and colloidal crystal structures — made possible by physical bonds at nanometer scales — can be realized even in the absence of attractive interactions via entropic bonds. We show how entropy alone can produce order and complexity beyond anything previously imagined, both in colloidal crystal structure and in the kinetic pathways connecting fluid and crystal phases. We show that similar assembly pathways — including fluid-fluid transitions — are followed by both molecular and colloidal fluids regardless of driving forces or relevant length scales. Finally, we show how colloidal crystal prediction may be amenable to modern tools used for atomic crystal prediction.


Sharon C. Glotzer is chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Along with professorships in the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering departments, she also holds faculty appointments in Physics, Applied Physics, and Macromolecular Science and Engineering.

Glotzer’s current research on computational assembly science and engineering aims toward predictive materials design of colloidal and soft matter. Using computation, geometrical concepts, and statistical mechanics, her research group seeks to understand complex behavior emerging from simple rules and forces, and to use that knowledge to design new materials. Glotzer’s group also develops and disseminates powerful open-source software including the particle simulation toolkit, HOOMD-blue.

Glotzer received her Bachelor of Science degree in physics from UCLA and her PhD in physics from Boston University. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). She is a Fellow of AAAS, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the American Physical Society (APS), the Materials Research Society (MRS), and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Her many awards and honors include the 2019 Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics from APS, the 2018 Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum and the 2016 Alpha Chi Sigma Awards from AIChE, and the 2017 Materials Communications Lecture Award and 2014 MRS Medal.

Glotzer is a leading advocate for simulation-based materials research, including nanotechnology and high performance computing. She serves on boards and advisory committees of the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Academies. She is currently a member of the National Academies Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology.