Associate Professor of Physics
Statistical Mechanics of Particulate Systems Far from Equilibrium
Hernán Makse’s research is attracting a lot of attention. In addition to his CAREER award, he has recently received an NSF grant to study the dynamics of social networks, and he is a co-recipient of the 2005 New York City Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology.
Dr. Makse is a member of City College’s Levich Institute, as well as the Department of Physics, and holds a Ph.D. in physics from Boston University. His research interests lie in complex systems, granular flows, and micromechanics and "jamming" in soft matter systems. His CAREER award supports theoretical and computational research on "jammed" systems of particulate materials, such as emulsions and granular media.
In particulate materials, a "jammed" system results if particles are packed together so that they are all touching their neighbors. It has been postulated that the behavior of systems experiencing such a state of structural arrest, a state that is inherently far from equilibrium, can be described by equilibrium thermodynamic concepts.
Dr. Makse’s research has already played an important role in placing the thermodynamics of granular materials on a firm footing. Under his CAREER grant, he is testing and further developing a unifying thermodynamic framework, which promises to lead to a common understanding of a wide range of systems. The work has potential impacts on the petroleum, pharmaceutical, and processing industries. It has bearing on fundamental science through the exploration of the theoretical idea that a statistical ensemble for closely packed particulate systems could be an example of a true generalization of the application of statistical mechanics to systems out of equilibrium.
Students are an integral part of Dr. Makse’s research team. “At CCNY, I am able to draw on an excellent pool of undergraduate and graduate students from physics and chemical, civil and mechanical engineering,” he says. “I could not do my work without them.” In the educational component related to his CAREER research, Dr. Makse plans to develop interdisciplinary courses on modern, soft-matter physics and computational physics topics.
Dr. Makse is also pursuing a theoretical understanding of complexity. He contends that the principles of statistical mechanics used to explain the organization of complex networks in matter can be applied to other complex networks from biological systems, to the Internet, to social networks. His work could ultimately lead to strategies for protecting the hubs of internet networks from attack and algorithms for improving immunization strategies that take into account the modular nature of society.