(4ei) Local Structure and Global Behavior in Self-Assembling, Amorphous, and Neurobiological Systems | AIChE

(4ei) Local Structure and Global Behavior in Self-Assembling, Amorphous, and Neurobiological Systems


Teich, E. - Presenter, University of Pennsylvania
Research Interests

Overview. My research focuses primarily on the emergence of structural complexity and its apparent converse, the persistence of disorder, in soft matter systems both material and biological. I search for universal descriptions of this emergence by using numerical simulation, statistical physics, network science, and information theory to investigate simple models with straight-forward physical interactions. My work seeks to understand, with as few underlying physical assumptions as possible, how local structure and interaction rules give rise to macroscopic behavior such as complex crystallization and glass formation in colloidal systems, acoustic response in jammed and elastic systems, and even function in the neurobiological context of the subcortical human brain. The ultimate goal of these efforts is the design of materials with tailor-made bulk properties, and the control of system response via perturbative input.

Plan. I plan to helm an interdisciplinary research agenda that develops novel ways of analyzing and engineering soft matter, grounded in physics but informed by the fields of chemical engineering, network neuroscience, and complex systems. I will pursue several interrelated research projects, each concerned with the manipulation of soft matter on a local scale, to predict and design the macroscale behaviors of glass-formation, acoustic response, crystallization, and neuronal function. These projects will encompass: (i) The design of glass-forming behavior in colloidal systems through the tuning of colloidal particle attributes, to build a library of colloidal analogues of molecular glass-formers; (ii) The development of novel means of control of acoustic response in amorphous and elastic systems through manipulation of local structure, with implications for designing sound propagation and allosteric response; (iii) The design of crystallization pathways in soft matter systems for the creation of customizable materials; and (iv) The interdisciplinary use of tools from soft matter to characterize the structure of fibrous white matter in the human brain, to better understand the impacts of disease, aging, and injury on brain structure and function.

Experience. While my graduate research focused on colloidal systems and the fundamental physical principles underlying their behavior, my postdoctoral work has expanded into the fields of complex systems and neuroscience, allowing me to create new connections in my research. I received my Ph.D. in Applied Physics from the University of Michigan, where I worked in Sharon Glotzer’s group in the Department of Chemical Engineering and studied the influence of local structure on phase behavior in entropically-dominated soft matter systems. My work showed that local structure in systems of "hard" particles (that have no forces between them aside from volume exclusion) (i) is a driver of complex crystallization behavior (Teich et al, PNAS 2016; Lee, Teich et al, PNAS 2019; Je, Lee, Teich et al, PNAS 2020), (ii) can determine whether crystallization occurs in general or whether glass formation occurs instead (Teich et al, Nature Comm 2019), and (iii) has influence over relaxation behavior in the glass-forming regime (Teich et al, Soft Matter 2020).

I am currently a postdoctoral researcher working with Danielle Bassett in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, where I have continued to investigate local structure in new contexts including driven and amorphous jammed systems in which degree of interiority within crystal grains influences rearrangement dynamics and memory effects (Teich et al, Sci Adv 2021). My work has also branched into the field of neuroscience, with a cross-discipline study of mesoscale white matter structure in the subcortical human brain (Teich et al, under revision, arXiv:2010.06644). I look forward to synthesizing and building upon my range of experience in my future research efforts.

Teaching Interests

When teaching, I seek to include and amplify voices that have historically been excluded from the sciences, by creating an atmosphere grounded in respect that encourages learners to ask questions, approach subjects without fear, and internalize the idea that they belong to the world of scientific scholarship just as much as any other student or famous scientist that they know. I have put these principles into practice when guest lecturing for both undergraduate and graduate classes, leading small group tutoring during graduate school, and serving as a research mentor to several students in Engineering and Physics Departments at the undergraduate level. These experiences have demonstrated to me the importance and efficacy of extensive preparation, and I have developed a teaching style that emphasizes both derivation from the bottom up and development of physical intuition in collaboration with students. As a professor, I will strive to teach inclusively and respectfully, providing multiple means of learning (including recorded video lectures, supplementary texts, and assignments such as coding and scientific writing projects) to accommodate different learning styles and facilitate fundamental understanding.

I also hope to address the historical lack of inclusion of marginalized voices in the sciences explicitly, and incorporate that discussion into my syllabus. Throughout my education, I never learned about the lives or opinions of the scientists whose eponymous theorems and discoveries were peppered throughout my textbooks. This created, in my opinion, a gap in my understanding of the social context of my field, and only served to reinforce the unspoken perception of the sciences as pure and unblemished reflections of truth. I want to challenge that perception for future students by explicitly discussing historical contexts. Which female scientists and scientists of color did not have a seat at the table? How were engineers and their work affected by influences within and outside of their fields? Including short readings and discussions related to these types of questions, even as extra-curricular enhancements, will hopefully serve to place the content of each class in a social context and invite students to consider ethics and justice within the sciences.

Mentoring Interests

The young scientists I have mentored and continue to mentor are all women, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to model a future in academia for them and to help historically underrepresented populations in the sciences however I can. To that end, I have placed emphasis on physics and other STEM outreach to young girls and other historically underrepresented students during my training and career thus far, including my year of service with AmeriCorps between college and graduate school. I have also been privileged to collaborate with other scientists on analyses of the citation gap between men and women in the fields of neuroscience (Dworkin et al, Nature Neurosci 2020) and physics (Linkova, Teich et al, Physics 2020). I am excited to continue all of these efforts in the future, in undergraduate and graduate classrooms and outside the classroom.

Selected Publications

* E.G. Teich, K.L. Galloway, P.E. Arratia, and D.S. Bassett, "Crystalline shielding mitigates structural rearrangement and localizes material memory in jammed systems under oscillatory shear," Science Advances 7, eabe3392 (2021).

* M. Linkova, E.G. Teich, and D.S. Bassett, "Tackling Academia’s Publication Inequities," Physics 13, 191 (2020).

* E.G. Teich, G. van Anders, and S.C. Glotzer, "Particle shape tunes fragility in hard polyhedron glass-formers," Soft Matter 17, 600 (2021).

*S. Lee, E.G. Teich, M. Engel, and S.C. Glotzer, "Entropic colloidal crystallization pathways via fluid-fluid transitions and multidimensional prenucleation motifs," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 116, 14843 (2019).

* E.G. Teich, G. van Anders, and S.C. Glotzer, "Identity crisis in alchemical space drives the entropic colloidal glass transition," Nature Communications 10, 64 (2019).

* E.G. Teich, G. van Anders, D. Klotsa, J. Dshemuchadse, and S.C. Glotzer, "Clusters of polyhedra in spherical confinement," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113, E669 (2016).