Nontechnical Abstract: The Harvard MRSEC focuses on cutting edge materials research, investigating materials such as gels, polymers, and colloidal suspensions that are soft and easily deformable. Soft materials are widely used in applications ranging from flexible electronics to biomedical devices. The Center consists of two interdisciplinary research groups, IRGs. IRG 1 will yield fundamental advances in materials synthesis, modeling, and 3D printing that enable the creation of functional soft materials that augment human performance. New classes of soft materials that sense, actuate, and communicate will be developed for use in wearables, haptic interfaces, and artificial muscles to enhance Future Work at the Human-Technology Frontier, namely, for superior future robotics. IRG 2 will yield new insights regarding the behavior of mechanically soft systems that are subjected to perturbations far from equilibrium. By combining data-rich experiments, theory, and artificial intelligence, the research will contribute greatly to Harnessing the Data Revolution by expanding its application to soft materials. An essential contribution of the Center is to increase the diversity of participants in materials science through close collaborations with minority-serving institutions, including a ground-breaking partnership with a Tribal College. The Center also fosters unique and highly successful initiatives that bring returning veterans into STEM fields. By forging new scientific directions, the Center focuses on unraveling complex phenomena in soft materials with the goal of translating these advances to benefit society.

Technical Abstract

Harvard MRSEC supports highly collaborative, multidisciplinary research at the forefront of soft matter science. The Center’s research activities are organized into two interdisciplinary research groups. The first research group focuses on the predictive design and programmable assembly of functional soft matter across multiple scales that sense, actuate, and communicate in response to external stimuli. The second research group focuses on the non-equilibrium phenomena in mechanically soft systems subjected to perturbations far from equilibrium through a combination of data-rich experiments, machine learning, and theory. The MRSEC also supports seed projects to enable rapid response to emerging discoveries. The Center provides intellectual rigor and broad training to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows through its strong mentorship and vibrant cadre of educational and outreach partnerships and activities. The MRSEC fosters a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, enhancing the competitiveness of the national economy through extensive industrial collaborations and formation of numerous start-up companies creating new high-tech jobs based directly on NSF support.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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Miriam Deutsch
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Harvard University
United States
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