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Beller Research Group
for Soft Matter and Biological Physics

Our group explores the basic physics underlying complex phenomena in ordered soft materials, biological matter, and living systems. We are part of a vibrant and expanding community of Soft and Biological Matter researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Department of Physics & Astronomy.

We use theoretical approaches combining statistical physics, elasticity theory, and material geometry and topology, alongside computational approaches such as mesoscale relaxational methods, coarse-grained Brownian dynamics, and stochastic front propagation simulations. Spatial self-organization, complex geometries, and topological defects are recurring themes in our research. Much of our work is in close collaboration with experimentalists from Physics, Materials Science, and Chemical Engineering backgrounds.

Our current research areas include:#

  • Active matter with liquid crystalline order

    How do emergent collective motions depend on material geometry, topology, and non-equilibrium force generation?

  • Self-assembly in ordered soft materials

    How do material order, interfacial effects, and chirality determine spontaneous spatial patterning and structure formation in liquid crystals and soft solids?

  • Biological population genetics

    What can statistical physics teach us about a population’s changing spatial structure and its evolutionary consequences?

Latest news#

Jimmy Gonzalez Nuñez speaks at Isaac Newton Institute

October 14, 2022

Population genetics in active matter paper published in Frontiers in Physics

July 12, 2022

Active nematic dynamics in growing colonies of immotile bacteria may help slow the population’s loss of genetic diversity — paper published in Frontiers in Physics.

Tubular crystals paper published in PNAS

February 2, 2022

Crystalline sheets rolled up into tubes can be programmed with reconfigurable shapes through the placement and motion of defects in the crystalline lattice — paper published in PNAS.

Jimmy Gonzalez Nuñez awarded DBIO Shirley Chan Student Travel Grant

January 26, 2022

Jimmy Gonzalez Nuñez awarded a DBIO Shirley Chan Student Travel Grant for the APS March Meeting!

Active matter paper published in PNAS

December 21, 2021

Mobility of motor proteins enhances emergent active nematic dynamics in a microtubule gliding assay — paper with Hirst, Dasbiswas, and Gopinathan groups (UC Merced) published in PNAS.

LC spontaneous chirality paper published in Soft Matter

December 1, 2021

_images/Ettinger2021-graphical-abstract.gif In nematic liquid crystals with low twist elastic constant, spontaneous chirality changes the orientations of rod-like colloidal particles embedded in the fluid — paper with Yodh (Penn) and Collings (Swarthmore) groups published in Soft Matter.

Crystallization on a cylinder paper published in ACS Applied Nano Materials

October 11, 2021

A new kind of defect found in crystallization on a cylinder (or: “the frustration of meeting yourself on the other side”) — paper with Manoharan and Rycroft groups (Harvard University) published in ACS Applied Nano Materials.