Dufresne Named to John J. Lee Assistant Professorship

Eric Dufresne, recently designated as the John J. Lee Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, focuses his research on understanding, controlling and exploring the properties of soft materials.

Eric Dufresne, recently designated as the John J. Lee Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, focuses his research on understanding, controlling and exploring the properties of soft materials.

He points out on his faculty website that at the macroscale, soft matter exhibits a mixture of fluid and solid properties, while at the microscale its structure and dynamics are dominated by thermal fluctuations. His laboratory, he explains, “manipulates soft materials from the bottom up by altering the interactions of their components, and from the top down by applying optical forces.”

His current research topics include the structure and stability of colloidal materials in the presence of electrostatic, hydrodynamic and protein-mediated forces; mechanotransduction in cell biology; and plasmon propagation in metallic nanostructures. He was the lead author on a paper that appeared online in the journal Soft Matter that revealed that some of the brightest colors in nature - such as the blue in the feathers of bluebirds and blue jays - are created by tiny nanostructures with a structure similar to beer foam or a sponge. Dufresne is now mimicking the intricate optical structures in bird feathers to create a new generation of optical materials in the laboratory.

Dufresne, who is also an assistant professor of chemical engineering and physics, is a member of the Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena, a collaboration between Yale, Southern Connecticut State University and Brookhaven National Laboratory. He holds seven patents for scientific apparatus and methods he developed.

A 1996 graduate of Yale College, Dufresne earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. In 2000, he helped found Arryx, a company dedicated to developing and applying holographic optical tweezers. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University from 2002 to 2004 before coming to Yale.

The Yale scientist has been honored with a 2002 R&D 100 Award and a National Science Foundation Career Award in 2006.

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