We are a research group in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Physics at Harvard University. We do experiments to understand how complex systems such as interacting nanoparticles or proteins spontaneously order themselves. The spontaneous emergence of an ordered structure from disorder is called "self-assembly." When what emerges is a pattern rather than a structure, the phenomenon is called "self-organization." We want to understand how self-assembly and self-organization work and how to use them to make useful things.
To understand the physics of self-assembly and self-organization, we study both natural systems (such as viruses) and synthetic ones (such as colloidal particles, perhaps dressed up with some interesting biomolecules). We use optical techniques that we develop in our lab to observe these systems in three dimensions and on short time scales. We use what we learn from these experiments to test physical models of self-assembly and to develop "design rules" for making systems that spontaneously organize in exactly the way we want them to.
With that understanding, we can make interesting stuff, including materials with fancy optical properties, such as negative refractive index or structural color. And, since self-assembly and self-organization are characteristics of life itself, we use these processes to make artificial systems that mimic the behavior of living things.
All of this means we're a pretty interdisciplinary group. We tend to think about problems like physicists and build materials like engineers, but we'd be lost without chemistry and biology. If you're interested in learning more, please have a look at our research projects and publications. And if you're interested in joining, please have a look at the available positions.