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Benjamin Franklin Medal in Mechanical Engineering Lecture: “Molecular and Micro-Structural Mechanics and Design of Soft Materials”

April 18 at 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Soft synthetic and natural polymeric-based materials offer particular new avenues for the design and fabrication of materials and devices. Engineering the molecular and geometrical structures of the constituent materials, together with utilizing their ability to sustain large deformations enables materials and designs with novel properties and functional behavior. We begin with the development of physically-based models of elastomeric mechanics, from the elegant simplicity of the “8-chain” network model of rubber elasticity to the more complex enhancements that capture the molecular mechanisms of nonlinear time-dependent behavior. We also address the behavior of versatile co-polymers, which can form micro-composites of “hard” and “soft” domains, providing an ability to engineer unique combinations of highly resilient elastic and dissipative systems. The structure and behavior of natural analogs such as mussel byssal threads are included and shown to yield further insights. Finally, we present the ability to tailor constituent geometrical features of soft composites using new fabrication techniques including 3D printing. Exemplars include patterned and layered structures which exhibit deformation and instability-induced pattern transformations. These structural transformations result in concomitant changes in a multitude of behaviors giving super-elastic and multi-linear elastic response, enhanced mechanisms for energy storage, switchable band gaps, soft actuators, and morphable surface topology. Looking to the future, the predictive ability of multi-scale nonlinear mechanics of soft materials, combined with the rapid developments in fabrication techniques provide profound opportunities to truly design functional materials, devices and products.

Mary C. Boyce

Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Provost Emerita of Columbia University, and Dean Emerita of Columbia Engineering

Mary C. Boyce is Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Provost Emerita of Columbia University, and Dean Emerita of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University. Prior to joining Columbia in July 2013, Provost Boyce had served on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over 25 years, leading the Mechanical Engineering Department as Department Head from 2008 to 2013.

As Provost, Professor Boyce served as the Chief Academic Officer of Columbia University. In this role, Provost Boyce propelled the academic excellence, creativity, and integrity of the many facets of Columbia University. She led the development and implementation of Columbia’s academic plans and policies; she championed the education and research aspirations of the Deans of all 17 Schools and Faculties; and she led the tenure review process and managed all faculty appointments. Together with the Chief Financial Officer, Provost Boyce also oversaw the budgets of each School and the development of the University’s annual academic budget.

As Dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS/Columbia Engineering), Dean Boyce led the education and research mission of Columbia Engineering. She expanded the full time faculty from 174 to over 230, serving more than 1700 undergraduate students, 3000 graduate students, and 100 postdoctoral fellows. Together with the faculty, Dean Boyce introduced and developed an inspiring vision for the School, Columbia Engineering for Humanity, to guide the strategic expansion of the School. Dean Boyce spearheaded the expansion of interdisciplinary research and education programs across the School, attracting faculty talent in cross-cutting fields as wide ranging as Data Science, Nano Science, Advanced Materials and Devices, Sustainability and Climate, and Engineering in Health and Medicine.

As a faculty member, Professor Boyce’s education and research efforts focus on the mechanics of materials, including theoretical, computational and experimental approaches. Her research explores the nonlinear and multi-scale mechanics of polymeric materials and soft composites. Her leadership in the field of mechanics of materials has expanded the ability to model and predict the highly nonlinear time and temperature dependence of polymeric materials based on their underlying physics. Her research has expanded understanding of the interplay between micro-geometry and the inherent physical behavior of a material. Recognition for her scholarly contributions to the field include election as a fellow of the American Academy of Mechanics, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. Professor Boyce has been awarded the 2015 Engineering Science Medal by the Society of Engineering Science and the 2020 Timoshenko Medal for Advances in Applied Mechanics by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.


April 18
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
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Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics
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Glandt Forum, Singh Center for Nanotechnology
3205 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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