(3ds) Integrative Self-Assembly Platform for Soft Materials Design | AIChE

(3ds) Integrative Self-Assembly Platform for Soft Materials Design


Du, C. X. - Presenter, Harvard University
Research Interests:

Nature has the ability to create materials with intricate structures and properties while using only a finite set of building blocks and without centralized control of assembly. To achieve the same behavior synthetically, one needs to have the capability of designing every step of the self-assembly pipeline: making building blocks with specific geometry and interactions, setting up a specific mixture of these building block ingredients, and controlling the pathway of their assembly. At each individual stage, we have a lot of insight from previous studies in different systems. However, it is still challenging to have integrative control over all steps within a single system.

During my postdoc, my experimental collaborators and I have realized such integrative control in a synthetic self-assembly platform. The platform, which we termed magnetic handshake materials, can create specific binding by encoding magnetic dipole patterns into panel-like building blocks. In our paper from last year (Niu et al, 2019), we have demonstrated the potential of our system by showing controlled polymerization, complementary binding strands, and 3D folding from 2D nets. To keep pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve and attempt to match nature’s ability, I developed an information theory based framework to provide insights on the building block design space and identify the block set that achieves the most specific binding. To test our understanding of the blocks self-assembly, I also constructed a computational model that closely matches experimental conditions.

The goal of my research group is to realize such complete single-platform pipelines for design of materials structure and function. I will carry out this investigation by combining the theoretical frameworks based on statistical mechanics, computational tools such as molecular dynamics simulations, and close collaborations with experimental groups.

Teaching Interests:

I am interested in teaching core engineering courses such as thermodynamics and statistical mechanics at both undergraduate and graduate level. Additionally, with my experience in soft matter and molecular dynamics simulations, I look forward to designing and teaching topical courses on soft matter, self-assembly, numerical methods and scientific computing. Previously, I have taught introductory physics labs and helped adding computational elements to the course. I have also mentored several undergraduate students during my PhD and postdoc and taken a month long seminar on Preparing Future Faculty offered by University of Michigan that had a big component on teaching philosophy.

Education & Training:

since 2018: Postdoctoral fellow, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; advisor: Michael P. Brenner

2012-2018: PhD in Physics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; advisor: Sharon C. Glotzer and Greg van Anders

2008-2012: Bachelor of Arts in Physics and Mathematics, Beloit College, Beloit, WI

Selected Honors & Awards:

Frank Sevcik Award, Department of Physics, University of Michigan, 2018

Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship, University of Michigan, 2017

Graduate Student Speaker Award Winner, APS Group of Statistical and Nonlinear Physics, 2017

Selected Publications:

Chrisy Xiyu Du, Greg van Anders, Julia Dshemuchadse, Paul M. Dodd, Sharon C. Glotzer, “Inverse Design of Compression-Induced Solid—Solid Transitions in Colloids” (2020). Molecular Simulation (accepted)

Ran Niu, Chrisy Xiyu Du, Edward Esposito, Jakin Ng, Michael P. Brenner, Paul L. McEuen, Itai Cohen, “Magnetic Handshake Materials as a Scale-Invariant Platform for Programmed Self-Assembly” (2019). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 116 (49), 24402-24407.

Chrisy Xiyu Du, Greg van Anders, Richmond S. Newman, Sharon C. Glotzer, “Shape-Driven Solid—Solid Transitions in Colloids” (2017). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 114 (20), E3892-E3899.

Successful Research Proposals:

I have contributed to successfully funded proposals during my PhD and postdoc, such as compute time proposals from XSEDE and INCITE, and grant proposal from NSF.


I was the co-chair of the 2019 Soft Condensed Matter Gordon Research Seminar, where I helped inviting speakers and panelists, as well as fundraising. I co-organized the 2019 APS Group (now Division) of Soft Matter short course on “Structures and Order in Soft Matter Physics” at the APS March Meeting, which had more than 70 attendees. Currently I am also serving on the APS Division of Soft Matter Membership Committee.