Suraj Shankar, Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, Harvard University
We are active matter. From the subcellular processes occurring within a living cell to the large-scale collective dynamics of human crowds or animal flocks, systems driven far from equilibrium by a sustained flux of energy through its constituents routinely exhibit stunning emergent phenomena that pose fundamental challenges to our understanding of the natural world. I will discuss how paradigmatic phenomena in such active systems can be fruitfully understood by combining tools from soft matter, geometry, and topology, often with surprising consequences. Going beyond pattern formation, I will discuss recent work on deploying control strategies to manipulate active materials and highlight future directions for functional biological and synthetic active systems.
Dr. Suraj Shankar is currently a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. He obtained his Ph.D. in physics from Syracuse University during which he was also a graduate fellow and visiting affiliate at the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara. Prior to this, he received a B. Tech. (Hons.) in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India. He was awarded the Syracuse University dissertation prize for his doctoral work, and was a recipient of the APS dissertation award in statistical and nonlinear physics in 2020. His research interests are broadly in soft matter and biological physics, with an emphasis on their geometric and topological aspects. His current work is focused on active matter, control theory, extreme mechanics and morphogenesis.