Author Archive

2023 Soft Matter Lectureship – Open for nominations

Do you know an early-career researcher who deserves recognition for their contribution to the soft matter field?

 

Soft Matter is pleased to announce that nominations are now being accepted for its 2023 Lectureship award and will close on 28 February 2023. This annual award was established in 2009 to honour an early-stage career scientist who has made a significant contribution to the soft matter field.

 

Soft Matter lectureship annpuncement - asking who will you nominate?

 

Eligibility

To be eligible for the lectureship, candidates should meet the following criteria:

  • Be an independent researcher, PhD students postdoctoral research associates are not eligible
  • Be actively pursuing research within the soft matter field, and have made a significant contribution to the field
  • Be at an early stage of their independent career (this should typically be within 12 years of attaining their doctorate or equivalent degree, but appropriate consideration will be given to those who have taken a career break, work in systems where their time period to independence may vary or who followed an alternative study path)

 

How to nominate

Nominations must be made via email to softmatter-rsc@rsc.org, and include the following:

  • The name, affiliation and contact details of the nominee, nominator and referee
  • An up-to-date CV of the nominee (1-3 A4 page maximum length)
  • A letter of recommendation from the nominator (500 words maximum length)
  • A supporting letter of recommendation from a referee (500 words maximum length). This could be from the nominee’s postdoc, PhD supervisor or academic mentor for instance
  • The nominator must confirm that to the best of their knowledge, their nominee’s professional standing is as such that there is no confirmed or potential impediment to them receiving the Lectureship

Please note:

  • Self-nomination is not permitted
  • The nominee must be aware that he/she has been nominated for this lectureship
  • Previous winners and current Soft Matter Editorial Board members are not eligible
  • As part of the Royal Society of Chemistry, we have a responsibility to promote inclusivity and accessibility in order to improve diversity. Where possible, we encourage each nominator to consider nominating candidates of all genders, races, and backgrounds. Please see the RSC’s approach to Inclusion and Diversity.

 

Selection

  • All eligible nominated candidates will be assessed by a judging panel made up of the Soft Matter Editorial Board, any Editorial Board members with a conflict of interest will be ineligible for the judging panel.
  • The judging panel will consider the following core criteria:
    • Excellence in research, as evidenced in reference to originality and impact
    • Quality of publications, patents or software
    • Innovation
    • Professional standing
    • Independence
    • Collaborations and teamwork
    • Evidence of promising potential
    • Other indicators of esteem indicated by the nominator
  • In any instance where multiple nominees are judged to be equally meritorious in relation to these core criteria, the judging panel will use information provided on the nominee’s broader contribution to the chemistry community as an additional criterion. Examples of this could include: involvement with RSC community activities, teaching or demonstrating, effective mentorship, service on boards, committees or panels, leadership in the scientific community, peer reviewing, promotion of diversity and inclusion, advocacy for chemistry, public engagement and outreach.

 

Previous winners

2022 – Xuanhe Zhao, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

2021 – Silvia Marchesan, University of Trieste, Italy

2020 – Valeria Garbin, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

2019 – Timothy J White, University of Colorado, USA

2018 – Susan Perkin, University of Oxford, UK

2017 – Daeyeon Lee, University of Pennsylvania, USA

2016 – Damien Baigl, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France

2015 – Lucio Isa, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

2014 – Eric Dufresne, Yale University, USA

2013 – Eric Furst, University of Delaware, USA

2012 – Patrick Doyle, MIT, USA

2011 – Michael J. Solomon, University of Michigan, USA

2010 – Bartosz Grzybowski, UNIST, Republic of Korea

2009 – Emanuela Zaccarelli, University of Rome, Italy

 

Nominations deadline: 28 February 2023

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Soft Matter Emerging Investigator – Richard Mandle

Profile picture of Richard MandleDr. Richard Mandle was awarded BSc and MSc degrees in Chemistry from the University of Hull. He completed his PhD in Chemistry under the supervision of Professor John Goodby FRS at the University of York in 2013 (thesis title: “The Nitro Group in Liquid Crystals”). In postdoctoral positions he developed new materials for consumer LCD devices and worked on developing materials that exhibit new nematic phase types (York), as well as on auxetic elastomers (Leeds). Dr. Mandle has published over 80 peer reviewed journal articles, was awarded the Young Scientist award of the British Liquid Crystal Society in 2017 and the Vorländer Lectureship of the German Liquid Crystal Society in 2022. In 2022 Dr. Mandle was awarded a prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship which he holds as a joint appointment between the School of Chemistry and the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds.

 

 

Read Richard’s Emerging Investigator article ‘A new order of liquids: polar order in nematic liquid crystals

 

How do you feel about Soft Matter as a place to publish research on this topic?

The nascent field of ferroelectric nematics sits at a sort of tricritical point between chemistry, physics and mathematics; Soft Matter cuts right across these scientific disciplines and beyond, and so is a really good fit for this sort of work.

 

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment and what do you find most challenging about your research?

Ferroelectric nematics are capable of all sorts of things that no other known state of matter can do, so understandably there is huge excitement about possible applications. We are getting pretty good at developing new materials, but relating the physical properties back to molecular structure is a bit of a black box at the moment.

 

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

I think it is fair to say that the discovery of polar order and ferroelectricity in fluids looks to be of the highest significance. Probably the biggest question right now is “how universal is polar ordering, and this new phase of matter?” is it restricted to a few odd molecules, or are we dealing with a more general phenomenon? Right now, evidence points to the latter, which is really important given that there is a big expectation that this discovery will end up in all manner of applications.

 

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Your job is only one part of your life and, in the far distant future, when you retire it’s gone. Make time for the stuff that really matters.

 

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Soft Matter Emerging Investigator – Charles Dhong

Profile picture of Charles DhongCharles Dhong is currently an Assistant Professor in Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering at University of Delaware. He received a PhD from Johns Hopkins University followed by postdoctoral studies at University of California, San Diego. His research group is interested in measuring or controlling the mechanical forces at biological interfaces. Biological interfaces, ranging from cells to the human sense, are complex because they are soft and patterned. Although they are complex, controlling these biological interfaces are important in a range of applications, including basic biology, cancer detection, and virtual reality for the sense of touch. To achieve these goals, we build devices, perform simulations and modeling, and incorporate new materials including conductive polymers and graphene sensors. He can be found on Twitter @CharlesDhong.

 

Read Charles’ Emerging Investigator article ‘Controlling fine touch sensations with polymer tacticity and crystallinity

 

How do you feel about Soft Matter as a place to publish research on this topic?

As we work on using materials chemistry to control touch, Soft Matter has been an excellent venue for publishing work at the intersection of materials chemistry, interfaces, and human psychology. Although we believe touch has many aspects that are traditional to soft matter mechanics and materials, the inclusion of human subjects and psychophysics requires an appreciation for interdisciplinary research. At the same time, the fundamental and rigorous approaches of research in Soft Matter help ground our work in established adhesion and interfaces science.

 

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment and what do you find most challenging about your research?

We are excited to see how many everyday textures and feelings we can create just by changing materials chemistry. With emerging areas of virtual reality, and neglected areas of accessibility aids for people with low vision and blindness, touch still remains an open area of exploration. One of the most challenging parts is that coming from a surface science background, working with human subjects data can be inherently variable. However, replacing human participants with machine mimics often does not replicate key parts of tactile perception. We still need ways to quantify and describe touch in ways that are unbiased, consistent, yet still remain useful.

 

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

I think the field is wide open, but I believe an important part of touch is to develop a standard and basis to communicate findings. Right now, unless you physically try the device of another lab, it is difficult to gauge progress. While perception is subjective, other fields like vision research have clearer standards or metrics to compare work. However, touch is inherently difficult because the human finger not only senses touch but is also an active participant in generating stimulus through mechanical forces: How you touch an object changes the forces and tactile stimuli generated.  In other senses, like vision, the eye does not influence the source of stimuli, e.g. a light bulb will emit the same stimuli to any subject.

 

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

People say that side projects can suddenly morph into key directions for a lab, and that’s been true for us. Classical areas today often started as brand new niche concepts–maybe as a side project–and most communities are open to new ideas or directions.

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2022 Soft Matter Lectureship awarded to Xuanhe Zhao

It is with great pleasure that we announce Xuanhe Zhao (MIT) as the recipient of the 2022 Soft Matter lectureship.

 

This award, now in its fourteenth year, honours an early-career researcher who has made significant contribution to the biomaterials field. The recipient is selected by the Soft Matter Editorial Board from a list of candidates nominated by the community.

 

Profile picture of Xuanhe Zhao

 

Xuanhe Zhao is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. The mission of Zhao Lab is to advance science and technology on the interfaces between humans and machines for addressing grand societal challenges in health and sustainability. A major focus of Zhao Lab’s current research is the study and development of soft materials and systems. Dr. Zhao is the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, ONR Young Investigator Award, SES Young Investigator Medal, ASME Hughes Young Investigator Award, Adhesion Society’s Young Scientist Award, Materials Today Rising Star Award, and Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher. Six patents from Zhao Lab have been licensed by established and start-up companies and contributed to widely used medical devices such as hydrogel-elastomer tissue phantoms.

 

 

 

 

To learn more about Xuanhe’s research have a look at some of his recent publications in Soft Matter, these are FREE to access until 15 August. You can also check out articles from our previous lectureship winners in our lectureship winners collection.

 

An extreme toughening mechanism for soft materials

Shaoting Lin, Camilo Duque Londono, Dongchang Zheng and Xuanhe Zhao

Soft Matter, 2022, DOI: 10.1039/D2SM00609J

 

Ideal reversible polymer networks

German Alberto Parada and Xuanhe Zhao

Soft Matter, 2018, 14, 5186-5196

 

Kirigami enhances film adhesion

Ruike Zhao, Shaoting Lin, Hyunwoo Yuk and Xuanhe Zhao

Soft Matter, 2018, 14, 2515-2525

 

Avoiding the pull-in instability of a dielectric elastomer film and the potential for increased actuation and energy harvesting

Shengyou Yang, Xuanhe Zhao and Pradeep Sharma

Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 4552-4558

 

 

We would like to thank everybody who nominated a candidate for the 2022 Soft Matter Lectureship. The Editorial Board had a very difficult task in choosing a winner from the many excellent and worthy candidates.

 

Please join us in congratulating Xuanhe on winning this award!

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Soft Matter Emerging Investigator – Eleonora Secchi

Profile picture of Eleonora SecchiEleonora Secchi is currently the Group Leader of the bioMatter Microfluidics Group at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. She earned a B.A. in Physical Engineering, an M.Sc. in Nuclear Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry from the Polytechnic University of Milan. Her graduate research work focused on developing optical correlation techniques and their application to the study of biological and soft matter systems. From 2014 to 2016, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Ecole Normale Supérieure of Paris, working with Prof. Lyderic Bocquet on the measurement of water flow from a single carbon nanotube, which allowed her to answer a long-debated question on water slippage at the carbon–water interface. She was awarded an ETH Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2016 to join the group of Prof. Roman Stocker at ETH Zurich, where she became interested in biophysics. In 2018, thanks to a Swiss National Science Foundation PRIMA grant, Eleonora started her research group. Her research aims to understand the physical mechanisms influencing the assembly and the behavior of bacterial biofilms.  Her group investigates the environmental factors and the physical mechanisms controlling bacterial transport, surface colonization, and biofilm formation in fluids, focusing on the biofilm matrix — “the dark matter of biofilms”. She exploits the precision afforded by microfluidics, combined with visualization techniques borrowed from soft matter physics, to access biofilm’s microstructure and rheology, with the ultimate goal of linking structural properties to their biological function.

 

Read Eleonora’s Emerging Investigator article ‘A microfluidic platform for characterizing the structure and rheology of biofilm streamers

 

How do you feel about Soft Matter as a place to publish research on this topic?

We presented a work at the interface between biophysics and fluid dynamics, with possible applications to soft matter systems. The Soft Matter readership has the perfect background to appreciate it and find further applications. 

 

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment and what do you find most challenging about your research?

Biofilms are bacterial aggregates embedded in a self-secreted polymeric matrix. They contribute to the surge of antibiotic resistance, a “global crisis” according to the UN, and cause costly biofouling and biocorrosion in the industrial sector. Studying the physical principles controlling biofilm assembly and the emergence of their properties can lead to developing novel, universal strategies to prevent and control their formation. I am excited to contribute to this medical and technological challenge while recognizing how ambitious the aim is to find universal physical principles to describe biofilm, the most diverse and widespread lifeform.

 

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?
Bacteria are capable of assembling a mighty physico-chemical shield to protect themselves and survive harsh environmental conditions, namely the biofilm matrix. The matrix varies greatly in its composition among different bacterial species, but it can generally be described as a polymeric gel with viscoelastic rheology. The field wonders how is the assembly of this gel-like matrix regulated and what are the mechanisms conferring to the matrix its unique physico-chemical properties.

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We are very pleased to announce that Professor Guruswamy Kumaraswamy has been appointed as an Associate Editor for Soft Matter

Profile picture of Professor Guruswamy KumaraswamyProfessor Guruswamy (Guru) Kumaraswamy is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. Guru’s research interests are in the area of structure-property relations in polymers and nanocomposites,  waste valorization, and sustainable materials. Guru is primarily an experimentalist and his group uses tools such as rheology and small angle X-ray and neutron scattering to probe materials microstructure. Read more on his group webpage. You can follow him on Twitter @GuruKumaraswamy. He is looking forward to welcoming submissions, particularly in the areas of polymers, colloids, surfaces and interfaces.

 

 

 

 

He has given his insight and thoughts on the future of the soft materials field:

“Soft materials are likely to become even more pervasive in our experience – from the humble flexible packaging that increases the shelf life of foods, to highly engineered lipid nanoparticles that envelop mRNA. With increasing usage, comes great responsibility, to ensure that we do not overwhelm the environment. Therefore, I anticipate that our community will emphasize research that optimizes use, and increased functionality of soft materials. I hope to see this emphasis reflected in the articles published by Soft Matter. Circular use of soft materials, sustainability, recycling and upcycling will be the defining topics for materials research in our times, and this should be reflected in the articles featured in Soft Matter.

 

Click here to submit your manuscript to Professor Kumaraswamy

 

Read Professor Kumaraswamy’s Soft Matter articles

Colloidal assembly by directional ice templating
Bipul Biswas, Mayank Misra, Anil Singh Bisht, Sanat K. Kumar and Guruswamy Kumaraswamy

Soft Matter, 2021, 17, 4098-4108

On the sensitivity of alginate rheology to composition
Karthika Suresh, Marleen Häring, Guruswamy Kumaraswamy and David Díaz Díaz

Soft Matter, 2019, 15, 159-165

Aqueous dispersions of lipid nanoparticles wet hydrophobic and superhydrophobic surfaces
Manoj Kumar, Mayuresh A. Kulkarni, Narendiran G. Chembu, Arun Banpurkar and Guruswamy Kumaraswamy

Soft Matter, 2018, 14, 205-215

Capillary uptake in microporous compressible sponges
Soumyajyoti Chatterjee, Pankaj Doshi and Guruswamy Kumaraswamy

Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 5731-5740

Phase behaviour of the ternary system: monoolein-water-branched polyethylenimine
Manoj Kumar and Guruswamy Kumaraswamy

Soft Matter, 2015, 11, 5705-5711

Compact polar moieties induce lipid-water systems to form discontinuous reverse micellar phase
Manoj Kumar, Naganath G. Patil, Chandan Kumar Choudhury, Sudip Roy, Ashootosh V. Ambade and Guruswamy Kumaraswamy

Soft Matter, 2015, 11, 5417-5424

 

Professor Kumaraswamy’s favourite Soft Matter articles

Professor Kumaraswamy has selected some recent publications in Soft Matter that he has found particularly interesting or insightful. These articles are all free to read until 15 July 2022.

Micro- and nanocelluloses from non-wood waste sources; processes and use in industrial applications
Julius Gröndahl, Kaisa Karisalmi and Jaana Vapaavuori

Soft Matter, 2021, 17, 9842-9858

Impact of dynamic covalent chemistry and precise linker length on crystallization kinetics and morphology in ethylene vitrimers
Bhaskat Soman, Yoo Kyung Go, Chengtian Shen, Cecilia Leal and Christopher M. Evans

Soft Matter, 2022, 18, 293-303
From our cross-journal themed collection on ‘Polymer Networks’ between Soft Matter and Polymer Chemistry

Modeling polymer crystallisation induced by a moving heat sink
Sabin Adhikari, Ahana Purushothaman, Alejandro A. Krauskopf, Christopher Durning, Sanat K. Kumar and Sumesh P. Thampi

Soft Matter, 2021, 17, 2518-2529

 

All these articles are currently FREE to read until 15 July 2022!

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Soft Matter Emerging Investigator – Alexandra Zidovska

Alexandra Zidovska is an Associate Professor of Physics at the Center for Soft Matter Research in the Physics Department at New York University. She received her PhD from the University of California, Santa Barbara after she completed her undergraduate studies and M.Sc. at Technical University of Munich, Germany. She pursued her postdoctoral studies at Harvard University.  Prof. Zidovska held the prestigious Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellowship, was named Whitehead Fellow 2016 and is a recipient of the National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award, National Science Foundation CAREER Award and Michele Auger Award in Biophysics 2020. Her current research uses approaches from soft condensed matter physics and polymer physics to study the cell nucleus and its constituents, such as the genome and subnuclear bodies, in particular their dynamics and spatial organization. She is also passionately engaged in causes related to diversity and inclusion in physics and related sciences. Her lab has an impressive record of recruiting, training and promoting women scientists across all levels, and Prof. Zidovska is founder and faculty leader of a new group, NYU Women in Physics dedicated to providing a more welcoming and stimulating environment for women and those from other underrepresented groups in physics. Find out more on her lab website.

 

Read her article ‘Mechanical stress affects dynamics and rheology of the human genome’.

 

How do you feel about Soft Matter as a place to publish research on this topic?

I am very excited to have our paper on the genome’s dynamics and rheology published in Soft Matter. It is a great journal showcasing the interdisciplinary nature of the field of soft matter by bridging physics, chemistry and biology. My group focuses on understanding the genome as a polymer inside the cell nucleus in live cells, which is research at the interface of physics and biology. Hence Soft Matter is a great place to share our results with the scientific community.

 

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment and what do you find most challenging about your research?

What I find most exciting about my research is also its most challenging part, that is, understanding the physics behind the dynamical self-organization of the genome and the cell nucleus in vivo. Inside living cells we can see first hand how nature relies on physical principles to carry out biological functions. In my group, we perform experiments on live human cells, obtaining measurements of physical parameters that then inform our physical picture of the genome and the cell nucleus. Such experiments are quite challenging, as their design is nontrivial given the complex nature of a living cell. Yet, that’s what I personally find very exciting, when we learn new physics directly from peering and poking into the cell.

 

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

In my opinion, one of the big questions in my field is to understand the non-equilibrium nature of the genome and the emergent phenomena it leads to. The dynamical self-organization of the genome affects all cellular processes via the central dogma of biology, hence its understanding is critical for revealing the physics of life. I believe that these living systems can teach us new non-equilibrium physics.

 

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

My advice would be, when identifying scientific questions to study, choose those you are sincerely passionate about and that make you happy. Your enthusiasm for the problem will then help to fuel your motivation and energy, even when you encounter obstacles.

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Soft Matter Emerging Investigator – Janne-Mieke Meijer

Janne-Mieke Meijer is an Assistant Professor in the Soft Matter and Biological Physics group at the Applied Physics department of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Her research focuses on complex colloidal systems to discover the fundamental principles of how building block design influences self-organization and how to control the self-assembly process to engineer new materials. Janne-Mieke obtained a BSc. in Chemistry, a MSc. in Nanomaterial Science and a PhD in Physical and Colloid Chemistry from Utrecht University. She completed a postdoc at Lund University, and a Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Konstanz. She received a Veni personal grant from the Dutch Research Council in 2018. She can be found on Twitter @JenneMikie and Instagram @JMs_colloids.

 

 

Read her article ‘In-situ characterization of crystallization and melting of soft, thermoresponsive microgels by Small-Angle X-ray Scattering’.

 

How do you feel about Soft Matter as a place to publish research on this topic?

Soft Matter is an excellent interdisciplinary journal bridging physics, chemistry, and biology. It is a great place to publish and follow exciting works on these soft microgels that encompass features of both colloids and polymers.

 

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment and what do you find most challenging about your research?

I am very excited about the work we are doing on different aspects of colloidal self-organization. Thanks to advances in synthesis and versatile assembly methods we can now finely tune colloidal complexity in terms of interactions, ranging from repulsive to attractive, and from hard to soft, while at the same time we can achieve almost any particle shape. The biggest challenge right now is to bring together the expertise and control needed to perform the colloidal experiments that can become quite complex. It is our aim to have control all the way from the synthesis of the colloids to the detailed analysis of the forces at play.

 

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

The self-assembly of molecules, nanoparticles and colloids is key to many natural and engineering processes, yet we do not fully understand how dynamic pathways or selective recognition control the final assemblies and hence the bulk material properties. To understand this complexity, we need to answer fundamental questions about how force, shape and composition dynamically interact and find out when equilibrium and non-equilibrium states emerge. Experimental studies of colloids can help us unravel these complex fundamental processes, and ultimately identify the design rules. This will open the way for a next generation of particle-based materials but will also generate new and important insights for condensed matter and biology.

 

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Find a research direction that you are passionate about, this will make sure you have fun in your day-to-day research, and make a career plan. Even though most of the time these plans will not pan out, I found that this is key in setting your priorities right.

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Advanced materials and processes for soft robotics: open for submissions

Guest Editors Anand Mishra (Cornell University, USA), Zhihong Nie (Fudan University, China), Jamie Paik (EPFL, Switzerland) and Rob Shepherd (Cornell University, USA) would like to extend an invitation to all researchers working on the forefront of soft robotics, to contribute an article of their work to an exciting upcoming themed collection of Soft Matter, dedicated to advanced materials and processes for soft robotics.

Submissions are open from now until 8 June 2022

This collection will include, but is not limited to, printable materials for soft robotics, elastomeric and hydrogel actuators, soft sensing materials and devices, bioinspired soft materials/robots, multifunctional soft robots, advanced manufacturing of soft robots, dynamic behaviours of soft robots, energy for soft robotics and experimental protocols, functionality and performance.

If you wish to submit to the collection, please contact softmatter-rsc@rsc.org to receive a personal submission link.

Please note all manuscripts must be within scope for the journal and will be subject to the journal’s standard rigorous peer review procedures, managed by the journal editors.

Accepted manuscripts will be added to the online collection as soon as they are online and they will be published in a regular issue of Soft Matter.

If you have any questions, please contact us at softmatter-rsc@rsc.org

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We are very pleased to announce that Professor Alfred Crosby has been appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief of Soft Matter

Profile picture of Al Crosby, new Soft Matter Editor-in-ChiefProfessor Alfred Crosby has been appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief of Soft Matter, taking over from Professor Darrin Pochan, after serving as an Associate Editor since 2017. Alfred J. Crosby is a Professor of Polymer Science & Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Co-Director of the Center for Evolutionary Materials. His research interests lie generally in bio-inspired materials mechanics, especially topics including adhesion, nanoparticle assemblies, gels, thin films, fracture, hierarchical materials, and elastic instabilities.  He has received numerous awards, including being a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the American Physical Society, and his research has been covered extensively in the popular media. Read more on his group webpage.

 

 

What attracted you to pursue a career in soft materials and how did you get to where you are now?

Like many soft matter researchers, my career path was not by design. However, I clearly recall sitting in an undergraduate course and having the professor say that polymers weren’t worth studying since they follow no systematic rules for materials – I personally took this as a challenge! Soft matter, as we know, follows a beautiful, diverse set of rules and mechanisms, and its diversity provides its strength in addressing some of the most critical problems in our society. 

Embracing this diversity and learning how to communicate across the many fields that intersect in soft matter has been a key part of my career. It is one of the aspects of this field that I love the most – that I can learn evolutionary biology while also learning the latest ideas behind control theory in robotics. Understanding how to build bridges across fields with the concepts of soft matter has been key to learning new ideas that can significantly advance our fundamental knowledge within the field.

 

What are your thoughts on the future of the soft matter field?

The soft matter field is growing faster and larger than anyone may have imagined a decade or two ago. Scientists and engineers at the heart of this field have made great strides in the sophistication and efficiency with which they can address challenges – from helping to package and deliver vaccines to designing robotic devices that manoeuvre with care and agility. Our ability to control structure-property-performance in soft systems is impressive, and the future is bright for continued innovation and step-change discoveries. However, soft matter is also at the heart of many of the most critical global challenges – reducing waste, developing a circular materials economy, decreasing the consumption of non-renewable resources, enhancing renewable energy sources, and providing clean water, nutrition, and resources for healthy living. Our field is poised to play a leading role in addressing these challenges – especially with its strong connection to biology and the materials and mechanisms that Nature already uses.

 

What role do you think the journal Soft Matter can play in this?

I am excited for Soft Matter to play a central role in engaging the community and helping to share its knowledge to not only those “in the field” but even more importantly, to those in adjacent fields and beyond. Soft Matter’s roots are in providing a forum to encourage communication of complex, multidisciplinary concepts in a way that opens doors for new discoveries. We are excited to continue innovating to broaden this forum and to open it to all scientists and engineers. We are committed to increasing access in an inclusive and equitable manner. Soft Matter will continue to be “the home for the most impactful scientific advances and technological discoveries in soft matter, and we look forward to working with the entire community to provide the most welcoming, efficient, and scientifically thorough venue for sharing solutions to global challenges.

 

What are you most looking forward to in your new role as Editor in Chief for Soft Matter?

I am most excited to listen and talk with researchers around the globe in the field of soft matter. I want to hear how Soft Matter can be improved to enhance the positive impact that our field has on addressing global challenges, and I want to be a leader that helps to make these ideas a reality.

 

Why do you feel that researchers should choose to publish their work in Soft Matter?

Soft Matter played a leading role in defining the field that we know today, and our Editorial Board is committed to maximizing the impact that it will continue to have in the next decade and beyond. Our Editorial Board and staff work together to ensure that we are publishing the most significant advances in a timely manner. Together with our strong community of reviewers, we help authors convey the essential lessons that their research results reveal and to ensure that these lessons will be transferable across a broad, multidisciplinary audience.

 

Image text: click here to read new Editor-in-Chief Alfred Crosby's favourite recent Soft Matter articles

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