Steve Granick, among the world’s most highly regarded polymer scientists, has been appointed to join the University of Massachusetts Amherst as the Robert K. Barrett Chair in Polymer Science and Engineering, with joint appointments in the chemistry, physics and chemical engineering departments. With nearly 350 publications to his name, and dozens of graduate students and postdocs successfully placed in prestigious academic and industry positions, Granick will play a guiding role in steering polymer science into the future. 

Granick, who for 30 years was a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will come to UMass Amherst from his position as director of the Center for Soft and Living Matter at South Korea’s Institute for Basic Science, a $100 million research organization dedicated to long-term investigation that can lay the foundation for future innovation. 

Granick has long been celebrated for his intellectual curiosity and creative approach to polymer science, and it’s this creativity that caught the eye of UMass Amherst’s polymer scientists. “We’ve all known of Steve’s work for years,” says David Hoagland, head of the polymer science and engineering department at UMass. “He brings a broad perspective, both intellectually and personally, about where the most interesting and useful polymer research is heading, and we’re thrilled to have his vision guiding our field.” 

For instance, Granick says that during his time in South Korea, he began to think differently about polymers. “The classic understanding is that polymers are plastics,” Granick says. “But if we extend that definition to include any large molecules, then we can start to think about the flow of energy and information through them, which can be of great service to communication technology, electrical engineering and even biology and bioengineering. Classical polymer science gives us a framework that we can use to help solve problems in all sorts of related fields.”  

Throughout his career, Granick has made it a point to carefully mentor his students, and nearly all of his many projects have involved close collaboration with students and post-docs. “My students help me,” says Granick. “We become something like a family for a few years, and we mutually help each other. I’m looking for the most talented students. If you encourage the best and the brightest, they will take off.” 

Granick's research plans for UMass fall across the polymer and soft matter field and follow three themes:

  1. Single Molecule Imaging to study how equilibrium thermodynamics breaks down in soft matter polymer systems, to track biophysical processes, and to understand nonlinear response.
  2. Active Materials, including dynamics of biological motors and autonomous particles.
  3. Light and Soft Matter, to develop new spectroscopy and imaging techniques.  These projects wonderfully complement existing UMass polymer strengths, and they will fit the campus' broader materials efforts.   

“The University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the nation’s great universities,” says Granick, “and the polymer science and engineering department has a long track record of excellence. I’m looking forward to contributing to this legacy.” 

Read on.


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