Greg Grason Named Fellow of the American Physical Society

Greg Grason

Professor Greg Grason, a theoretical polymer scientist in polymer science and engineering, has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) by its Council of Representatives this month as recommended by the society’s Division of Polymer Physics

The society’s announcement states that the selection as an APS Fellow is a “prestigious recognition by your peers of your outstanding contributions to physics.” In the award citation, Grason is recognized “for elucidation of the role of molecular geometric packing frustration on the fundamental physics for the selection of complex self-assembled phases.”

Grason says, “I’m very honored to named APS fellow and humbled to be able to join the ranks of the many of outstanding colleagues at UMass and elsewhere who have also received this recognition.”

His expertise lies in geometric frustration, “misfitting packing,” Grason explains, through the combined lens of theoretical condensed matter physics and geometric principles.

“You should think of these molecular building blocks “warped puzzle pieces” where you can still fit the edges together at least in pairs, but as you try to assemble larger patches of the puzzle, the warping causes bigger problems. It makes you strain the assembly more and more in assemblies of soft matter. In assemblies, frustration arises from interactions between molecular or particulate building blocks – such as polymers, proteins of complex particles – that favor geometrically incompatible, or misfitting, patterns of order.”

He notes, “Counterintuitively, frustration in assembly doesn’t always lead to poorly ordered states, but it can lead to self-organized states in materials that are more exquisitely structured – and more robustly controlled – than you can get without frustration.”

He says his work focuses on developing theoretical tools and principles that target a basic question that cuts across condensed matter physics, materials science and biology: How can the self-organization of identical, locally interacting sub-units yield structures that are regulated at size scales much bigger than those units? 

Answers to this question have important implications for understanding and engineering functional properties of complex structures that form in a diverse range of synthetic and biological soft materials, he adds.

Grason came to campus in 2007 from UCLA where he was a postdoctoral fellow. In 2012, he received the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2010.