Charles E. Sing

Charles E. Sing
Charles E. Sing
  • Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, James M. and Karen S. Morris Faculty Scholar
(217) 244-6671
205 Roger Adams Laboratory

Uses both theoretical and computational tools to tackle fundamental problems in polymer physics and develop design principles for bio-inspired soft materials.

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Charles E. Sing studies charged polymers, polymer dynamics, and biophysics. His research group seeks to use coarse-grained models to understand the emergent physics of polymer or biophysical systems, and then use the resulting insights to guide the design of new materials. Current research efforts are focused on problems that are challenging because they span large length and time scales, and new theory or simulation methods are necessary to yield new fundamental physical principles. Dr. Sing has been recognized with a number of honors, including the ACS PMSE Young Investigator Award (2020) and AIChE 35 Under 35 (2020). He received his BSE/MS from Case Western Reserve University and his Ph.D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed his postdoctoral work at Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology. He joined the department in 2014.


  • Postdoctorate, Northwestern University, 2012-2014
  • Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012
  • M.S., Case Western Reserve University, 2008
  • B.S.E., Case Western Reserve University, 2008

Research Interests

  • Polymer Physics, Statistical Mechanics, and Computer Simulation

Research Statement

Research Statement:

Our research uses simulation and theory to understand polymer materials such as those in modern-day consumer products, advanced responsive or adaptive materials, and in biological systems. Our primary goal is to inform how polymers can be engineered at the molecular level, taking inspiration from biology where complex structure and function arises from processes occurring on disparate length and time scales. We integrate statistical mechanical theory and coarse-grained models to understand polymer physical phenomena, addressing fundamental physical problems using a unique brand of molecular engineering that combines accurate physicochemical models with first principles theory, in close collaboration with experimentalists. See below for a non-comprehensive list of research areas.

Charge-Driven Polymer Assembly

We are interested in how molecular details such as primary polymer sequence, macromolecular architecture, and electrostatic environment govern the thermodynamics and self-assembly of charged polymers. Our work probes the connections between molecular structure and thermodynamic phase behavior in complex coacervates, a class of charged polymer materials, using theory and simulation. Coacervates are broadly useful in applications ranging from personal care products to stimuli-responsive materials, and as analogues for biomolecular condensates. In this last application, we have made fundamental advances by studying the effect of charge sequence on assembly properties, and we seek to lay the foundations for designing polymers with built-in self-assembly instructions.

Out-of-Equilibrium Polymer Dynamics

We are interested in how hydrodynamics, polymer architecture, and intermolecular interactions influence the dynamics of polymers in solution. We have developed new computational methods for simulating out-of-equilibrium semidilute polymer solutions, in order to demonstrate how polymer architecture and hydrodynamic interactions govern the dynamics and structure of polymers in strong flows. Our research has revealed the importance of architecture-hydrodynamic coupling in flowing polymer solutions, and the presence of large conformational fluctuations driven by polymer-induced local flows in non-dilute systems. Much of this work has been in collaboration with Professor Schroeder, and will provide insights important to the solution processing of polymers, such as in printing or coating processes.

Brush-like Polymer Assembly

We are interested in how molecular architecture governs molecular interactions and assembly in polymer solutions. Our work has established models of architecture-mediated interactions in the solution behavior of highly-branched polymers. This includes coarse-graining procedures that allow us to simplify the structure of these brush-like macromolecules, while retaining key physical attributes and interactions. We use these advances in coarse-grained polymer models to explore the interplay between polymer branching and conformation, molecular interactions, and self-assembly in dense solutions. We collaborate with Profs. Diao, Rogers, and Guironnet on understanding the design of these systems for printing materials that exhibit structural color that is tunable ‘on-the-fly’ via processing conditions.

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  • Helen Corley Petit Scholar (2020)
  • AIChE 35 Under 35 (2020)
  • ACS PMSE Young Investigator (2020)
  • U.S. Frontiers of Engineering, NAE (2018)
  • NSF CAREER Award (2017)
  • Forbes 30 Under 30 for Science (2015)
  • College of Engineering Academy of Excellence in Engineering Education, Collins Scholar (2014-2015)
  • MIT DMSE Best PhD Thesis Award (2013)
  • International Institute for Nanotechnology Postdoctoral Fellowship (2012)
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (2009-2012)
  • MIT/Dupont Alliance Presidential Fellowship (2008)

Teaching Honors

  • School of Chemical Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award (2017-2018)
  • MIT DMSE Graduate Student Teaching Award (2012)

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