423148 From DNA to Polymer Membranes: Soft Materials for the 21st Century

Sunday, November 8, 2015
Exhibit Hall 1 (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Douglas R. Tree, Materials Research Laboratory, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

My research focuses on theoretical and computational problems in soft matter and complex fluids. I did my PhD work at the University of Minnesota with Kevin Dorfman, where we studied equilibrium and hydrodynamic properties of DNA confined in nanometer scale environments. Such environments are particularly important to nascent genomic mapping technologies, which seek to linearize DNA as a step prior to optical imaging. In our research, we strove to advance both a fundamental understanding of polymer physics and practical considerations of device design. For example, in one study we demonstrated that the configurational fluctuations of a DNA molecule decreased rapidly below a threshold confinement diameter. This insight provided a rationale for a previously unexplained observation that optical mapping of DNA only became feasible below this threshold.

I am currently working as a postdoctoral scholar with Glenn Fredrickson at the University of California, Santa Barbara on modeling complex polymer phase behavior in convective flows. Pertinent industrial examples include (but are not limited to) processes for polymer membrane formation and reactive compatibilization. Experience has shown that numerical tractability is a challenge for such simulations. Recently, we have developed an efficient numerical method for a class of models derived from a general framework based on non-equilibrium thermodynamics and statistical field theory. Work is ongoing to use these methods for a multi-component model of an immiscible polymer solution to examine membrane formation.

Going forward, I am excited to explore new research topics in soft matter theory. A recent perspective on the grand challenges in soft matter theory and computation (Liu et al., Soft Matter, 2015) outlines a significant need for work on problems that are (i) far from equilibrium and (ii) involve a hierarchy of length and time scales. Making progress in these areas will involve the need to use cutting edge numerical methods and to develop new ones as necessary. In doing so, I will focus on bridging the fundamental and the practical in an effort to help develop the next generation of soft materials.

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