(10m) Soft Matter Physics of Polymeric Fluids, Biofluids, and Granular Media

Authors: 
Narsimhan, V., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Research Interests:

Soft matter such as biological membranes, cells, tissues, body fluids, colloidal dispersions, and gels have properties that fall between those of liquids and solids. They are composed of polymers and/or particulates (liquid or solid) dispersed in a continuous phase. Biological processes and technological applications often use flow and external forces to alter the organization of soft matter at the microscale, which can manifest as significant changes in the materialâ??s mechanical behavior. My goal is to establish a research program in soft matter physics that develops theory and simulations to describe the micro to macroscale behavior of polymeric fluids, granular materials, and biological fluids. I plan to complement these studies with experiments and collaborate closely with other research scholars.

My research training is in the area of fluid mechanics and polymer physics. In my PhD under Prof. Eric Shaqfeh, I developed mathematical models, performed boundary integral and multipole simulations (meso-scale), and conducted microfluidic experiments (vesicle synthesis, particle-tracking, image processing) to describe the motion of droplets, red blood cells, and vesicles under flow in capillaries and microfluidic devices. During my postdoctoral work with Prof. Patrick Doyle, I examined the motion of knots in DNA via Brownian dynamics simulations (nano-scale), collaborating closely with experimentalists doing single-molecule microscopy. This work has possible applications in biology (transcription) and next-generation DNA sequencing.

My future research will focus on polymer dynamics, polymer rheology, biofluid mechanics, and granular materials. One research thrust is to develop microscopic models of polymer entanglements. Can one develop simpler theories to describe collisions between polymer chains, and gain insight into what aspects of molecular structure contribute to friction between chains? On the macroscale, I would like to develop theories and perform experiments on polymeric fluids, describing how the presence of solids alters the dispersionâ??s material properties and how these fluids partition in a bifurcation. Another research area involves the development of mesoscale models describing the transport of leukocytes through lymph nodes, which is where bodyâ??s immune response initiates. I would also develop particle-tracking experiments of highly agitated granular media (powders) to understand how collisions alter particle transport. The flow of powders is important in a variety of industries (food, pharmaceutical) and 3D printing.

Teaching Interests:  

My teaching philosophy rests on two beliefs: a teacher should teach students how to become problem solvers, and a teacher should get students excited about a subject area. My goal is to impart a quantitative mindset to students so that they can view a complex phenomenon, distill its essential physics, and characterize it using mathematical or computational tools. I was a teaching assistant for two Chemical Engineering courses: (1) undergraduate thermodynamics (Caltech), and (2) graduate fluid mechanics (Stanford). I was awarded the Stanford Chemical Engineering Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award and was actively involved in mentoring the subsequent batch of teaching assistants. My laboratory mentorship experience includes the supervision of graduate and undergraduate students.

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