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Andrea Liu is the Hepburn Professor of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her A.B. degree in physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. in the area of critical phenomena from Cornell University in 1989. After switching to complex fluids during her postdoc at Exxon Research and Engineering Co., she worked on polymer theory as a postdoc in the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science departments at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She then joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was a member of the physical chemistry faculty for ten years before moving to the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Liu is a condensed matter theorist who works on soft and living matter. In living matter, her research focuses on the role of mechanics in biology, with the aim of understanding how new and general phenomena, beyond those typically observed in inanimate soft matter, can emerge. In soft matter, she is best known for developing the field of jamming, which provides a unifying conceptual framework for understanding commonalities in systems ranging from atomic and molecular glasses, to colloidal glasses and granular matter. She has shown that jamming produces solids at an opposite pole from perfect crystals, providing a new way of thinking about the nature of rigidity in disordered solids.
Liu served on the NRC panel on Condensed Matter and Materials Physics 2010, which was responsible for the decadal survey for that field, as well as the NRC Condensed Matter and Materials Research Committee. She also co-chaired the NRC Committee on Societal Benefits from Condensed Matter and Materials Research. She has served on numerous APS committees; for example, she has been a member-at large of the Division of Condensed Matter Physics and of the Topical Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics, and a member of the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is also a Simons Investigator in Theoretical Physics and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
As someone who has worked in physics, chemistry, chemical engineering and materials science departments, as well as in industry, I have a deep appreciation for the many communities served by the American Physical Society. This breadth is our greatest strength—it allows the field of physics to evolve, while still retaining its basic goal of understanding the world from general principles. The process of constant reinvention has enabled physics to remain at the scientific forefront of many of the challenges facing society today. However, this breadth also poses challenges—our members have diverse viewpoints, work in many different environments, and require different kinds of support from the APS.
The APS serves the physics community directly through meetings and other functions, and indirectly through its advocacy of physics to the rest of society. In order to be effective in both roles, it is essential for the APS to maintain a broad vision of physics. As a General Councillor, I will work to strengthen the APS by helping it to better serve its diverse members and to engage with all potential members. I will also focus on helping the APS to continually rethink and improve its efforts to communicate the contributions and value of physics to policymakers, funding agencies and society at large. We must ensure that the APS is not viewed as just another advocacy group asking for funding, but as a precious resource of knowledge, discovery and invention.