ChBE Professor Simon Rogers earns NSF CAREER Award


Simon Rogers, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, has won a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award for his research proposal on understanding the ways soft materials transition from acting as solids to acting as liquids.

The National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program’s CAREER Awards are prestigious and competitive awards given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their respective organizations.

“I’m honored and excited to receive this award. It’s a great chance to pursue my research goals over an extended period of time and to have the chance to train and inspire the next generation of soft matter scientists,” Rogers said. The award is a reflection of the hard work of my students, and of the expert mentoring I’ve received from my senior colleagues.”

The title of his proposal is, “Time-dependent Structures of Soft Materials under Flow: A Rheo-Scattering Approach to the Study of Thixotropic Yield Stress Fluids.”

Yield-stress materials can be utilized in a variety of ways—in 3D printing applications, pharmaceuticals, photovoltaics, food, and more. No matter their application, yield-stress materials need to retain a desired shape under certain conditions but also be able to flow on demand. In some types of 3D printing, for instance, it’s important to use inks that can flow out of a nozzle but then turn into solids once printed, allowing for a variety of structures to be formed.

“We seek to understand these behaviors at a molecular level, so we can design and engineer smart responsive materials for a variety of applications,” Rogers said. Currently, however, there is no accurate way of determining the precise conditions under which these materials yield.

For this project, Rogers and members of his lab will develop experimental methods that link the mechanical changes we observe on human length scales to what happens at a molecular level. This will enable the design of new materials as well as more efficient industrial processes.

The NSF CAREER program will provide five years of support to Rogers’ research as well as a number of public engagement activities for school-age children and mentorship for undergraduate and graduate students. Members of the Rogers Lab will teach budding scientists about the complexity of soft matter research through programs that target underrepresented groups. In addition, undergraduate classes will be enhanced by incorporation of higher-level material obtained through this work.