B.S., Beijing University; M.S., Ph.D., Cornell University
Science Center 584
Associate Professor of Physics
Experimental and theoretical work in complex fluids, mentoring students, using advanced computational tools in undergraduate physics curriculum.
My research field is complex fluids. The systems I have studied are colloids─mixtures of small particles suspended in other substances (for example, toothpaste and ink). I have conducted experiments, theoretical and computer simulation work on mechanical and electrical properties of colloids. The system I am currently studying is a mixture of fine silica powder in silicone oil. My students and I have discovered that these mixtures, initially a viscous paste, become a free-flowing liquid over a time period ranging from hours to weeks (the rate depends on the viscosity of the oil and what we add to it). What causes this gel-fluid transition? From a fundamental science point of view, this type of phase transition is poorly understood on a first-principle basis. Non-aqueous silica gels, similar to the ones we have studied, are widely used in industry. Thus, this project also has practical applications.
I teach physics courses at all levels. In order to make physics easier for students to learn, I supplement the traditional lecture with live or recorded demonstration, animation, and computer simulation. I also use worksheets in class that guide students through the problem-solving process, making them active participants in the learning process instead of just passive listeners. Computational tools like Mathematica and MATLAB are used extensively in my classes for algebraic derivation, animation, simulation, and for graphing. Another important aspect of my teaching is involving students fully in my research activities: from designing experiments, analyzing data, or building models to writing papers and presenting work at regional and national scientific conferences.
I stay in close contact with many top researchers in nearby universities. Some of my experimental work is conducted at Harvard and Brandeis. These collaborations not only keep me active in my research field, but also provide my students with opportunities to interact with leading experts in the field and to use state-of-the-art experimental facilities. I am happy to see that many of my students have gone on to successful careers not only in physics (a field in which women are still an underrepresented minority) but also in a wide range of fields ranging from business to medicine.
I enjoy going to museums and concerts. Traveling with my family and writing to my friends also give me immense pleasure.