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Complex Systems and Biophysics

Core Faculty

Michelle Driscoll [Driscoll Laboratory Page]

Professor Driscoll is a soft condensed matter experimentalist, and her research lies at the junction between soft-matter physics and fluid dynamics. Her lab focuses on understanding how structure and patterns emerge in a driven system, and how to use this structure formation as a new way to probe nonequillibrium systems. We study emergent structures in a diverse array of driven systems, from the microscopic to larger-scale.  By developing a  deeper understanding of patterns and structures which emerge dynamically in a driven material, we can learn not only how these structures can be controlled, but also how to use them to connect macroscopic behavior to microscopic properties.  Email Michelle Driscoll

Pulak Dutta [Dutta Research Page]

Professor Dutta is studying the interface between soft and hard materials. These are common in biology: many organisms grow inorganic components (biominerals) to add mechanical strength and also for sensing applications. Prof. Dutta's group uses bioinspired techniques to grow inorganic crystals at ordered organic surfaces, which they study using X-ray scattering, atomic force microscopy, and other techniques.  Email Pulak Dutta

István Kovács [Kovacs Laboratory Page]

Professor Kovács is working on bridging the gap between structure and function in complex systems. His group is developing novel methodologies to predict the emerging structural and functional patterns in a broad spectrum of problems ranging from systems biology to quantum physics, in close collaboration with experimental groups. Email István Kovács

John F. Marko [Marko Laboratory Page]

Professor Marko's research is focused on the question of how DNA is organized and processed inside cells. His group carries out single-DNA stretching experiments to study protein-DNA interactions and chromatin structure, as well as experiments on living cells to directly study whole chromosomes. Prof. Marko's group also uses statistical mechanics to study problems in molecular biophysics.  Email John F. Marko

Adilson E. Motter [Motter Research Page]

Professor Motter’s research uses network approaches to untangle the dynamical behavior of complex systems. Most natural and engineered systems are complex, in that their function can emerge from interactions between component parts rather than the parts themselves. Yet, numerous research programs remain focused on reducing such systems to their components. The Motter group seeks to understand the impact of interactions in network dynamics and the resulting principles governing emergent behavior in complex physical, biological, and technological systems. Research topics pursued in the group include cascading dynamics, spontaneous synchronization, network control, and symmetry phenomena; quantum networks, machine learning applied to network problems, and data-driven discovery in network science; and applications to molecular biophysics, biomedical research, renewable energy, smart power grids, microfluidics, and metamaterials. This research is theoretical and computational and uses a combination of tools from statistical physics, nonlinear dynamics, and data sciencebut it also benefits from close collaborations with experimentalists and researchers from other disciplines. Email Adilson E. Motter


Joint Faculty

Daniel Abrams

Professor Abrams has broad scientific interests ranging from coupled oscillators to mathematical geoscience to the physics of social systems.  He approaches these wide-ranging problems by creating greatly simplified mathematical models where rigorous analysis is possible, hopefully capturing some essential properties of the system. The work in different fields is generally connected by similar mathematical techniques drawn from the study of nonlinear dynamics.  Email Daniel Abrams

Luis Amaral

Professor Amaral  works on data-driven modeling of the emergence, evolution, and stability of complex social and biological systems.  Email Luis Amaral

Erik Luijten

Professor Luijten works on computational statistical mechanics of complex fluids, electrostatically driven self-assembly phenomena, phase behavior and kinetics of colloidal suspensions and polymeric systems, and Monte Carlo algorithms.  Email Erik Luijten

Monica Olvera de la Cruz

Research in the Olvera de la Cruz group is centered around the development of models to describe the self-assembly of heterogeneous molecules including amphiphiles, copolymers and synthetic and biological polyelectrolytes, as well as the segregation and interface adsorption in multicomponent complex fluids. Work by the group has resulted in a revised model of ionic-driven assembly: demonstrating the electrostatic spontaneous symmetry breaking of ionic fibers and membranes, and identifying its relevance to biological functions and to the design of functional materials. The group's investigations into soft and condensed matter physics have advanced scientific knowledge and opened new research fields of technological importance, including: gel electrophoreses dynamics, self-organization of molecular electrolytes into bio-mimetic materials, self-assembly of heterogeneous molecules into complex nano-structures, interface adsorption and phase segregation dynamics and structure of multicomponent fluids.  Email Monica Olvera de la Cruz

Sara Solla

Sara Solla's research interests lie in the application of statistical mechanics to the analysis of complex systems. Her research has led her to the study of neural networks, which are theoretical models that incorporate "fuzzy logic" and are thought to be in some aspects analogous to the way the human brain stores and processes information. She has used spin-glass models (originally developed to explain magnetism in amorphous materials) to describe associative memory, worked on a statistical description of supervised learning, investigated the emergence of generalization abilities in adaptive systems, and studied the dynamics of incremental learning algorithms. Solla has also helped develop constrained neural networks for pattern-recognition tasks, along with descriptions of the computational capabilities of neural networks and learning.  Email Sara Solla 

 Petia Vlahovska

Prof. Vlahovska’s research explores membrane biophysics (biomembrane electromechanics and stability, thermal undulations), non-equilibrium soft matter (emergent phenomena and self-organization in active matter, collective dynamics of motile colloids, rheology of emulsions), and fluid dynamics ( fluid-structure interactions in Stokes flow,  instabilities, electrohydrodynamics, electrokinetics). Research in her group integrates theory and experiment. She directs the Complex Fluids and Soft Interfaces Lab. Email Petia Vlahovska