April 11, 2019
- Juan J. de Pablo, the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering and Vice President for National Laboratories at the University of Chicago, was the featured guest speaker for the 7th annual Amundson Lecture on April 11, 2019. De Pablo is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society, inducted member in the National Academy of Engineering, and is a foreign correspondent member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the 2018 Polymer Physics Prize by the American Physical Society, which is among the most prestigious for the field.
De Pablo's lecture, "Liquid-Crystals - From Simple Self-Assembled Constructs, to Autonomous Materials" focused on the relationship between structure, activity, and motion in lyotropic liquid crystalline polymeric systems. More specifically, results were presented for actin and tubulin suspensions, where activity is generated by protein motors. A distinctive feature of these biopolymers is that characteristic contour lengths can range from hundreds of nanometers to tens of microns, thereby making them amenable for study by optical microscopy. By relying on molecular and meso-scale models, it is possible to arrive at a comprehensive description of these suspensions that helps explain the connections between molecular structure, the formation and shape of distinct topological defects, activity, and defect dynamics. One of the outcomes of such a description is the realization that hydrodynamic interactions can in some cases exacerbate or mitigate the elasticity of the underlying materials, leading to non-intuitive phenomena that do not arise at equilibrium. By balancing such effects, these findings raise the possibility of designing functional materials where specific, macroscopic dynamical responses are engineered into a system to create function.
De Pablo (center) is shown with CEMS faculty members after his lecture. The annual Amundson Lecture features a guest speaker that embodies the tenets of Professor Neal R. Amundson in scholarship and innovation in the fields of chemical engineering and materials science. Amundson, department head from 1949-1974, was a visionary leader who pioneered the application of mathematics in chemical engineering.