Ted Brzinski Earns Grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund
The Assistant Professor of Physics was awarded a $55,000 grant to investigate the microscopic origins of the transition between two types of sedimentary dynamics.
For Assistant Professor of Physics Ted Brzinski, receiving a grant from the American Chemical Society (ACS) Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) is a chance to forge new discoveries in the world of soft matter physics.
The $55,000 award will fund Brzinski’s project “Investigation of Velocity Fluctuations and Correlations during the Sedimentation of Dense Granular Dispersions.” Brzinski, a soft-matter physicist, studies systems that are difficult to categorize as typical solids, liquids, or gases. He began laying the groundwork for his ACS PRF-funded project years ago, during his time in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his advisor later wrote a meta-analysis of the existing literature on sedimenting granular dispersions, which refers to a loose collection of grains falling within a fluid.
"We originally became interested in sedimentation because it's an example of a system which undergoes jamming, a phase transition between liquid and amorphous solid states, via directional solidification — there's a clear interface between the solid pile of sedimented grains at the bottom and the liquid-like dispersion above,” he says. “By studying the interface we'd hoped to gain insight to the kinetics of the jamming transition.”
Brzinski’s new research seeks to characterize the transition between two types of sedimentary dynamics and to identify its microscopic origins.
"As far as I know, my group will be the first to try to address the origins of this strange transition,” he said. “For me, this research is interesting because it is an example of the complexity that emerges when a system with many simple components is dominated by the interactions between constituents. These many-body systems are the bread and butter of statistical mechanics. In particular, systems like this which exhibit nonlinear behaviors can be particularly challenging and exciting to study.”
The ACS/PRF grant is particularly exciting for Brzinski because of the organization’s emphasis on including students in the research process, something that’s important to Brzinski and is a cornerstone of a Haverford education.
"PRF is a great funding source for us because the values of the fund are so well aligned with the College,” he said. “They prioritize student participation in research. ACS requires that a large share of the funding pay directly for student support. In my case, it will allow me to fund more summer students, as well as providing the flexibility to employ a student for work-study during the academic year, and then to send students to professional conferences or workshops.”
While the ACS/PRF grant also extends its reach to cover some of the material and logistic needs of the project, Haverford College is supplementing the experimental design process by awarding Brzinski a Faculty Research Grant.
Brzinski’s work has already involved collaboration with several students including James Stadler ‘18 and Charles Walker ‘20. Stadler’s research on this topic, said Brzinski, “made for an excellent senior thesis, and earned him high honors from the department!”
Brzinski is grateful for their collaboration and the new grant, and he’s enthusiastic about the chance to continue to explore the intricacies of sedimentary dynamics.
"Thank you to the American Chemical Society and the program managers, administrators and reviewers who, besides awarding this funduing, have invested their time and effort in order to give us this exciting opportunity,” he said.
In addition, acknowledgment is made to the donors of The American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund for support of this research.