The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of Chicago drives innovation by tackling some of the deepest intellectual challenges of materials research through interdisciplinary and highly collaborative efforts united with a strong commitment to education and outreach. The proposed research aligns with the NSF initiatives The Rules of Life and The Quantum Leap and attacks problems beyond the scope of a single discipline, requiring the assembly of researchers with complementary expertise. Our MRSEC draws on talent from eleven academic units from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. While each interdisciplinary research group (IRG) focuses on a specific topic, the IRGs are scientifically integrated through carefully conceived, center-wide programs with proven impact.
The research activities are organized into two IRGs and a Superseed:
The IRG on Trainable Soft Materials will establish a framework for building classes of materials whose material response is engineered by using external manipulation to train in novel functionality. It takes inspiration from the fundamental processes that govern the structure and enormous adaptability of biological networks to derive new principles for pluripotent material fabrication by varying the training protocol.
The IRG on Activated Architectured Materials seeks to construct materials with spatiotemporally programmable and self-regulating transport properties by bringing together recent advances in active materials with inorganic colloidal and thin film synthesis. The proposed work will enable dynamic control of transport properties of inorganic materials with potential applications in sensing, actuation and biodesign.
The Superseed on Electrical-optical quantum transduction seeks to elucidate the critical issues of control and coherence in both individual and in collective-mode quantum systems, with the goal of manipulating and exploiting quantum coerence in materials over a large range of length scales, from individual quantum centers to macroscopically entangled materials will focus on the challenge of creating integrated quantum circuits with coherent interfaces between different quantum materials spanning across many energy scales. This IRG will exploit parametric driving to investigate coherent conversion between electronic, optical, spin, and mechanical degrees of freedom.
In addition to training a diverse group of post-graduate, graduate and undergraduate students, the Chicago MRSEC brings science inquiry experiences to underserved students in neighboring communities on Chicago's south side, including special programs for students and teachers and after-school science clubs. The MRSEC provides summer research opportunities to undergraduate students from all over the U.S. As part of its outreach to the general public, the MRSEC collaborates with museums to develop materials science exhibits. The MRSEC collaborates with a number of international institutions, interacts with the industry, and runs a suite of shared facilities.