Get to know members of the teaching staff of Experimental Physics.
We are interested in soft and biological systems that are in and out of equilibrium. We aim to understand how colloidal building blocks self-assemble and how the self-assembly can be manipulated by external fields like gravity and electric fields using theory, simulations, and machine learning. Systems of interest include crystals, quasicrystals, and liquid crystals of colloidal particles with chirality, biaxiality, flexibility, and surface-functionalization, and the dynamic self-assembly behavior of active matter. To gain physical insight in soft and living matter, we perform simulations from the atomistic via the particle scale to the continuum level. To this end, we develop coarse-graining methods for colloidal systems using machine-learned many-body potentials, forces, and functionals.
We focus on fundamental questions concerning phase transitions, glasses, jamming transitions, nucleation and polymorph selection, but we are also interested in applying our knowledge to inverse design functional materials with targeted catalytic, mechanical, optical, and life-like properties and responses.
Currently, my group and I do fundamental research on so-called quantum materials, i.e. materials whose macroscopic properties are governed by intriguing quantum mechanical effects. One example are topological insulators. We typically use atomically precise materials, often built atom-by-atom. This provides us with ‘control knobs’ that are often not available in naturally occurring materials. In addition, our experimental results can be more easily compared to calculations done by our collaborators at the Debye Institute or at the Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Another topic I care about is the growing polarization in our society, in part caused fake-news and fact-free politics. I try to contribute to addressing these challenges by demonstrating to society the value and contributions of science/facts. To reach parts of the local community that are not traditionally exposed to science, I have initiated a series of wall paintings to highlight contributions of local scientists in a visually attractive manner. Have a look in real life and at utrechtsemuurformules.nl!
My research focus on the investigation of a new state of matter called Quark-Gluon Plasma by using heavy-quarks has probes for which I have been awarded of NWO VENI and VIDI grants. I am member of the ALICE, one of the four main experiments at CERN Large Hadron Collider where I served as coordinator of the charm analysis group, as convener of the heavy-flavour physics group and I have been appointed as member of the physics board. Since 2020 I am leading the Dutch efforts on the realization of the so-called ALICE3 detector expected to operate at CERN in 2034. On the academic side, I am lecturer and course coordinator of Subatomic physics and Computational Aspects of Machine Learning. Finally, my outreach activities brought me being coordinator of the Hisparc project for the Utrecht Province, teaching masterclasses and following high-school students in their profielwerkstuk.