J. M. Schwarz Theory Group
New postdoctoral position in theoretical descriptions of living and nonliving systems
The J. M. Schwarz Theory Group in the Department of Physics at Syracuse University welcomes applications from postdoctoral candidates interested in theoretical descriptions of living and nonliving matter. The candidate will be grappling with such issues as: (1) the interplay between constraint counting, geometry, and forces in determining the properties of frictional, jammed solids, (2) the interplay between mechanics and morphology in coupled semiflexible polymer networks to explore mechanical mechanisms regulating a number of living processes ranging from transcription to cell crawling, and (3) understanding the brain as a material to better understand how it functions. Depending on the project, the work ranges from a mix of analytical and computational approaches to predominantly computational, augmented by heuristics. There will also be opportunity for collaborations with other faculty, students and postdocs in the Syracuse Soft Matter Program (that includes faculty members Mark Bowick, Lisa Manning, Cristina Marchetti, and Joseph Paulsen).
The position will begin at a flexible date, preferably in the spring of 2016, and has a duration of one year, with the possibility of renewal for a second year. For consideration, applicants must complete an online application at www.sujobopps.com (job #072209) and attach a cover letter, CV, and a brief description of their research interests. They also need to arrange to have three letters of reference submitted to the website. For inquiries, please contact Prof. J. M. Schwarz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. Syracuse University is an equal opportunity employer committed to excellence through diversity.
And now, yes, the above image is of me, J. M. Schwarz, sitting in my favorite apple orchard thinking about topological changes in biological systems of all things.
I, along with members of the group, obsess over phase transitions in physical and biological systems with disorder---systems where the individual components do not arrange themselves in a perfect pattern, for example. To be concrete, the cellular cytoskeleton is composed in part of actin filaments that are connected by crosslinkers in some random fashion. Or, consider the arrangement of pennies crammed into a penny jar until it is full. Even at the quantum level, impurities in a quantum conductor qualify as a system with disorder.
So while our work involves modelling seemingly rather different systems, it is the disorder that calls for a unified description under the framework called percolation---the theory of everything disordered, so to speak. In less grandiose terms, percolation is the study of connected structures in disordered networks. Such connected structures undergo a phase transition from a non-spanning phase to a spanning phase as their density is increased. Once the connectivity of the system is known, then one can incorporate forces via a network of springs to study the elasticity of the system, and its accompanying phase transition from liquid to solid as the density of connected structures increases beyond the no-spanning/spanning transition. In fact, one can potentially use such an approach to model the elasticity of the actin cytoskeleton to quantitatively understand how a cell changes shape to crawl.
Please tour the rest of this website to become a little more familiar with our work. Do not hesitate to email me, or anyone else in the group, with questions. Also, please see jmschwarztheorygroup.org for a slightly more colorful version of our website.