February 23, 2011 - Vinothan N. Manoharan, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Physics in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Department of Physics, has been awarded a prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship.
The $50,000 award recognizes both Manoharan's achievements and his potential, and will help to support his research in condensed matter and biophysics.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation selects a number of outstanding researchers annually "on the basis of their independent research accomplishments, creativity, and potential tobecome leaders in the scientific community through their contributions to their field."
Since joining the Harvard faculty just five years ago, Manoharan has published 15 research papers on self-assembly, complex fluids, and colloid dynamics. In 2008, he won a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation.
In his current research, Manoharan applies his knowledge of soft-matter physics and self-organization to questions in biology, exploring, for example, how to design nanoparticles that mimic the assembly of the capsid shell of a virus.
His research team is also perfecting the use of digital holographic microscopy to collect data on micron-sized particles and cells.
"The technique allows us to capture a single 2D image (the hologram) that tells us about the entire 3D structure of the sample," says Manoharan. "In 2 milliseconds we can locate the instantaneous position of all the particles with 10-nanometer precision, and we can watch in real-time as they self-assemble. This is very difficult to do with ordinary microscopy."
He hopes that a thorough understanding of the physics of self-organizing systems, besides having applications in bioengineering, will lead to the manufacture of new nanoscale materials with finely tuned optical properties.
"The scientists and researchers selected for this year's Sloan Research Fellowships represent the very brightest stars of this generation of scholars," says Paul L. Joskow, President of the Sloan Foundation. "The Foundation is proud to be able to support their work at this important stage in their careers."
Prior to his arrival at Harvard, Manoharan was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied the internal dynamics of foams. He received his B.S.E. from Princeton University in 1996 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2004.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant making institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economic performance.
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