Searle Laboratory 105
5735 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
tfroberts at uchicago.edu
Liquid crystals (LCs) are materials that exhibit a range of exotic phases outside the traditional solid, liquid and gas regimes. These materials often have long range elastic properties similar to traditional solids yet deform under shear stress like a liquid. This combination of properties gives rise to fascinating and technologically relevant phenomena. Roberts' goal is to better understand liquid crystalline systems using a variety of simulation techniques and experimental collaboration.
The de Pablo group uses three different descriptions to capture LC dynamics: atomistic, mesoscale, and continuum. Each of these models provides a different level of molecular detail; and as such, when each model becomes relevant depends on the level of detail needed. Roberts works primarily with continuum and mesoscale simulations to investigate two related systems: colloids imbedded in an LC and LC droplets in aqueous solutions.
The first project focuses on how functionalized colloidal particles in an LC exhibit spontaneous aggregation into well-defined colloidal crystals or form complex gel-like formations. Roberts' research focuses on the elastic-driven aggregation of these particles and how such complex materials could have unique engineering applications.
The second project looks at the internal structure of nano/micrometer LC droplets when present in an aqueous solution. The role of LC elastic forces and surface chemistry in inducing these droplet phases is only weakly understood. The de Pablo group uses different LC models to better understand droplets and ultimately hopes to find ways these systems can be used in molecular engineering.
Roberts was born in Portland, OR on St. Patrick’s Day, 1988. He received his BS in Chemical Engineering from Oregon State University in 2010 then entered the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2010. At Wisconsin, he was a Genomic Sciences Training Program (GSTP) predoctoral trainee. He is currently working on his MS at UW–Madison and will transfer to the University of Chicago in August. There he will be a PhD candidate in Molecular Engineering.