Physics Professor Awarded Grant from National Science Foundation

June 14, 2012

Associate professor of physics Mark Taylor has recently been awarded a three-year research grant of $116,000 from the National Science Foundation-Division of Materials Research.

Taylor does theoretical and computational research in the area of statistical mechanics of liquids, complex fluids and macromolecules.  This new grant, titled “Phase transitions of a single polymer chain: Effects of solvent, confinement, and tethering”, continues on four years of prior NSF support of Taylor’s research program at Hiram College.

In the proposed research, Taylor and his students will use advanced computer simulation techniques to study conformational transitions (shape and structural changes) of polymer chains due to changes in the local environment of the polymer molecules.  Such single chain phase transitions are important for the functionality of bio-macromolecules such as enzymes, and understanding these transitions in some detail may help in the design of environmentally responsive smart materials and sensors.

The grant proposal for this work received very high marks from NSF peer reviewers who both commented on the high quality and rigor of the science and especially noted the significant engagement of undergraduate students in the research.

As with Taylor’s previous NSF support, much of the new grant will be used to fund summer research students at Hiram.  Taylor’s view on undergraduate research is summarized in the closing lines of his NSF grant proposal:  “Undergraduate research is a wonderful educational opportunity that I benefited from as a student at MIT and I look forward to continuing to provide such opportunities to our students here at Hiram College.  I hope that some of my own passion for research and enthusiasm for teaching will inspire my students to pursue careers in science.”

Taylor received his bachelor of science and Ph.D. in physics from MIT and Brandeis University, respectively.  Before Hiram College, Taylor did research and taught at both Dartmouth and Swarthmore Colleges.  Since coming to Hiram in 2001, Taylor has remained a very active researcher publishing 10 research articles, three of which include Hiram student coauthors (with two more student coauthored papers to be submitted this summer).  Taylor has a total of 40 research publications and his papers have been cited over 700 times in the scientific literature.  At Hiram, Taylor has received external research funding from both the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund and the National Science Foundation.  Taylor also has an ongoing research collaboration with two groups in Germany for which he receives funding from the German Research Foundation.

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