New Center for Soft and Living Matter Is Launched

Durian Liu

Deans Steven J. Fluharty of the School of Arts & Sciences and Vijay Kumar of the School of Engineering and Applied Science announce the opening of a new Center for Soft and Living Matter that will be a joint endeavor between the two schools. The center will be led by Director Andrea J. Liu, Hepburn Professor of Physics, and Associate Director Douglas J. Durian, Professor of Physics.

Soft matter research concerns collective phenomena that emerge in systems with many interacting components, where quantum mechanics does not play an explicit role. Some of the biggest challenges in the sciences—to understand systems that are far from equilibrium, that possess complex structures, and/or that are designed either by humans or evolutionary processes to have special properties—are confronted in their purest forms in soft matter. These challenges also arise in understanding the physical phenomena of life, leading to a natural intertwining of the fields of soft and living matter, and underlie areas of engineering ranging from nanomaterials, biomaterials and bioengineering to energy applications, robotics and data science.

The center brings together more than 60 faculty from across more than 10 departments in Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and the Perelman School of Medicine. “Penn was among the first universities to invest in soft and living matter research and has been at the forefront of the field for over a decade,” says Dean Fluharty. Dean Kumar adds, “The center will foster a strong, cohesive, highly collaborative community in soft and living matter across Arts & Sciences and Engineering and will help make Penn the most exciting, visible university in the world in the field.”

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