APS News

Proposed Soft Matter Topical Group

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Photo by APS/Alan Stonebraker

Illustration of particle networks responsible for the unusual properties of discontinuous shear thickening fluids.

Soft matter scientists are working to create an APS topical group for their research.

The organizing committee for the group is being finalized, and will soon start drafting by-laws and collecting signatures to form the group.

“It’s our hope that the APS annual meetings become the ‘go-to’ meetings for soft matter in the US,” said Sharon Glotzer of the University of Michigan, the chair of the organizing committee.

She added that members of the research community are working to create the new topical group because the field has been expanding over the last few years.

“Soft matter is one of the most rapidly growing areas of physics right now,” Glotzer said. “You don’t feel a strong presence of soft matter within the community because it’s spread apart.”

This subfield of condensed matter physics includes researchers working on foams, colloids, liquids, gels, and granular matter. The organizers have been working with other groups and divisions to coordinate the formation of the new group.

“The executive committee of DPOLY [APS Division of Polymer Physics] is very pleased that APS has found a way forward to address the concerns and the needs of the soft matter community,” said Karen Winey of the University of Pennsylvania and the chair of DPOLY. “Soft matter topics used to be scattered between many units and now it will be coordinated by one unit.”

Once the working group is assembled, it will start to draft the proposed group’s bylaws. At the same time, they’ll start circulating a petition to collect the 200 signatures needed to bring the proposal before the APS Council for approval in April.

Once approved by the Council, the group becomes officially active. After 200 members sign up, it becomes a full-fledged topical group and if the timing works out could potentially start organizing sessions for the 2015 March Meeting.

The formation of the group would be the culmination of several years of grassroots effort to establish a home for soft matter researchers.

“Europe has a very strong soft-matter community,” Glotzer said. “We don’t have the same kind of thing here in the US.”

The effort also comes in part as the Society tries to expand its appeal among industrial physicists.

“There was specifically an effort to include industry,” said Trish Lettieri, the director of APS Membership. “The timing is right to help us achieve some of the goals APS identified in its strategic plan.”

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