The Paint Branch Distinguished Lecture in Applied Physics was established and endowed by a generous gift to the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics in 2014 with the intention to bring luminaries in the field of Applied Physics to speak to our community.  It is our hope that this lecture will significantly raise the visibility of Applied Physics on our campus and beyond, and will grow to be an annual tradition that is anticipated, celebrated and widely attended.

Each year we will identify and invite a distinguished scientist to visit our campus and address our faculty, students, and colleagues. We welcome suggestions for speakers from all members of the UMD community. Suggestions can be sent to

The 2021 Paint Branch Lecture

Order, disorder and the entropic bond: The Truth About Entropy

Paint Branch Distinguished Lecture in Applied Physics

Prof. Sharon Glotzer, University of Michigan

When: Tuesday October 12, 2021 at 4:00pm (pre-lecture socialization at 3:30pm)

Where: 1101 A. James Clark Hall, University of Maryland

Abstract: Entropy is typically associated with disorder; yet, the counterintuitive notion that particles with no interactions other than excluded volume might self-assemble from a fluid phase into an ordered crystal has been known since the mid-20th century. First predicted for rods, and then spheres, the thermodynamic ordering of hard particle shapes by nothing more than crowding is now well established. In recent years, surprising discoveries of entropically ordered colloidal crystals of extraordinary structural complexity have been predicted by computer simulation and observed in the laboratory. Colloidal quasicrystals, clathrate structures, and structures with large and complex unit cells typically associated with metal alloys can all self-assemble from disordered phases of identical nanoparticles due solely to entropy maximization. In this talk, we show how entropy alone can produce order and complexity beyond that previously imagined. We introduce the notion of the entropic bond, and show how methods used by the quantum community to predict atomic crystal structures can be used to predict entropic colloidal crystals.

Biosketch: Sharon C. Glotzer is the Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering, the John Werner Cahn Distinguished University Professor of Engineering and the Stuart W. Churchill Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, where she is also Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, Professor of Physics, Professor of Macromolecular Science & Engineering, and Professor of Applied Physics. She is member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She received a B.S. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. degree from Boston University, both in physics. Prior to joining the University of Michigan in 2001 she worked for 8 years in the Materials Science & Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as co-founder and Director of the NIST Center for Theoretical and Computational Materials Science. Glotzer's research on computational assembly science and engineering aims toward predictive materials design of colloidal and soft matter, with current emphasis on shape, packing, and assembly pathways. She has hundreds of refereed publications and has presented over 300 plenary, keynote, and invited talks around the world. Glotzer was the recipient of the Charles M.A. Stine Award in Materials Science and Engineering from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, holds a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and was named a 2012 Simons Investigator.

About The Name

Paint Branch is a 14- mile stream that brings water from small streams and tributaries throughout the region, flowing south through our campus on its way to the Anacostia River. Many of us pass it by car, bicycle, or on foot each day on our way to and from work. Like the Paint Branch, we anticipate that this new lectureship will serve as a confluence that draws together the many taleneted and active researchers, faculty, and students in Applied Physics in our communiy, and will remind us of our common goals and principles.

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