University of Oregon faculty member awarded $560,000 NSF CAREER Award

EUGENE, Ore. -- (May 17, 2013) – Eric Corwin, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Oregon, has won a 2012 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. The $560,000 award supports Corwin’s explorations of “jammed” systems — disordered particulate systems at the edge of stability. The project is focused on exploring jammed systems in real world applications, as well as in abstract higher dimensions.

“Jammed systems are all around us — a sand dune, a sack of grain or a pile of coal are all jammed.  They seem solid enough at first push, but give them a hard shove and they simply flow out of the way. And yet for all of their ubiquity, they remain poorly understood,” Corwin says. “One of the great ironies of nature is that often by imagining what the world would be like in much higher dimensions, we can better understand and explain the world as it is. Studying the jamming of spheres in an imagined 8 dimensions can shed light on such prosaic questions as ‘How does one design a better grain hopper?’"

Corwin’s project will entail the development of high-speed microscopy techniques, result in new computer programs and algorithms and have a major impact on the scientific field of jamming. It will also involve a visiting artist program that is designed to spark public interest and appreciation in science. Improved understanding of the static and dynamic properties of jammed particulate systems has potentially broad impacts, for example, in industrial design, Corwin says.

The CAREER Award is NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early career faculty. The NSF grants successful applicants a minimum of $400,000 for exemplifying the role of the “teacher-scholar,” demonstrating both outstanding research and innovative approaches to education.

“Dr Corwin’s innovative research has tremendous potential for real world applications,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the graduate school at the University of Oregon. “His emphasis on education and on encouraging public interest in the sciences puts him on a path toward becoming a future leader of academic research and education, making him an ideal recipient of this prestigious award.”

Link APS Physics Journal: Eric Corwin, "Numerical simulations are revealing general properties of jammed states of matter," Physics 5, 97 (2012), DOI: 10.1103/Physics.5.97, http://physics.aps.org/articles/v5/97