Group Members as of May 2013



Tim Atherton — Principal Investigator 

Tim received his PhD in Physics in 2007 from the University of Exeter in the UK where he studied frustration phenomena in liquid crystals as part of the Electromagnetic Materials group with Professor Roy Sambles FRS. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral scholar at Case Western Reserve University in the Rosenblatt group contributing to a diverse range of projects: from the Rayleigh-Taylor instability to direct imaging of liquid crystalline order via the technique of Optical Nanotomography. He joined the faculty of Tufts University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Fall 2011. (see ResearchGate profile)

Badel Mbanga — Postdoctoral Scholar

Badel joined our group in July 2012.  He did his graduate studies at Kent State University, and arrived at Tufts by way of the University of Massachusetts Amherst  where he did  postdoctoral training with Christian Santangelo. His PhD dissertation work on finite element elastodynamics studies of nematic elastomers was supervised by Prof. Robin Selinger at the Liquid Crystal Institute, Kent State University: the aim was to help advance understanding of the interaction of nematic elastomers with external stimuli, as these materials have properties that promise a great future to the fields of soft robotics and artificial muscles. In the course of his PhD studies, Badel also did experimental work in measuring the giant flexoelectric response of bent-core liquid crystals.

Graduate Researchers

Chris Burke,  a graduate student in the PhD program at Tufts, joined the soft matter theory group in May 2012. Originally from South Plainfield, NJ, Chris completed his BS in Physics at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, graduating with High Honors in 2011. He’s recently published his first paper on a project looking at how to maximize the nonlinear optical response of materials.

Undergraduate Researchers

Beau Coker completed his undergraduate Senior thesis on “Do Physical Analogues of Stock Market Crashes make sense?”, using some of the statistical mechanics ideas that underpin soft matter physics to better understand stock market crashes. His thesis was awarded highest honors and Beau graduates summer 2013.

Dan Fortunato worked on a project using ideas from graph theory and big data to look at how researchers at Tufts are collaborating by finding papers with common authorship from the PubMed database.

Lesya Horyn has been looking at how small molecules self-assemble as potential transport vectors for DNA. This is a collaborative project with Qiaobing Xu of the Biomedical Engineering department.

Kate Voorhes has been working this Badel Mbanga looking at coalescing nematic droplets. She’s been awarded a Tufts summer scholars award to continue this project over the summer of 2013.

Former Group Members

Sawyer Bernath graduated from Tufts Physics in Summer 2012, having worked on a collaborative project between the Soft Matter Theory group and Cristian Staii’s biophysics group in developing a model for neuronal growth. Sawyer presented this work as a poster at the APS March meeting 2012.

Logan Hubbard (CWRU) Logan was a Biomedical Engineering major who worked on an interdisciplinary project funded by the CWRU SOURCE program. He’s simulating how phase separation in multi-component lipid vesicles (like the cell membrane) can drive changes in their shape.

Francesca Stephenson (CWRU) performed her senior project with me in 2010-11 on looking at multi-component vesicles with Surface Evolver.

Michael Ding (CWRU) performed his senior project with me in 2009-10 on obtaining nematic liquid crystal configurations using conformal mapping.