Corwin lands $560,000 NSF CAREER Award

Corwin's exploration of disordered particulate systems was recognized
Corwin's exploration of disordered particulate systems was recognized

Physicist Eric Corwin is earning national plaudits for his efforts to create order from disorderly particulate systems.

Corwin, an assistant professor of physics, has won a 2012 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award.

The CAREER Award is the foundation’s most prestigious award in support of early career faculty. The foundation grants successful applicants a minimum of $400,000 for exemplifying the role of the “teacher-scholar,” demonstrating both outstanding research and innovative approaches to education.

The $560,000 award supports Corwin’s explorations of “jammed” systems — disordered particulate systems at the edge of stability. The project is focused on exploring jammed systems in real-world applications, as well as in abstract higher dimensions.

“Jammed systems are all around us — a sand dune, a sack of grain or a pile of coal are all jammed,” Corwin said. “They seem solid enough at first push, but give them a hard shove and they simply flow out of the way. And yet for all of their ubiquity, they remain poorly understood.”

Corwin’s project entails the development of high-speed microscopy techniques that will have a major impact on the field of jamming. Improved understanding of the static and dynamic properties of jammed particulate systems has potentially broad impacts in industrial design, for example.

“One of the great ironies of nature is that often by imagining what the world would be like in much higher dimensions, we can better understand and explain the world as it is,” Corwin said.

“Dr Corwin’s innovative research has tremendous potential for real world applications,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the graduate school at the University of Oregon. “His emphasis on education and on encouraging public interest in the sciences puts him on a path toward becoming a future leader of academic research and education, making him an ideal recipient of this prestigious award.”

- by Lewis Taylor, UO Office of Research, Innovation and Graduate Education