Patrick Underhill, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, was recently named the recipient of the 2013 Arthur B. Metzner Early Career Award from the Society of Rheology.

The award, presented in Montreal at the annual meeting of the professional society, is reserved for researchers under the age of 35 who have “made a significant contribution to the field” of rheology—which examines how materials flow in response to forces.

Patrick Underhill

Patrick Underhill

Rheology brings together researchers from industry and academia in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The materials studied include polymers, paints, inks, ceramics, glass, food products, biological materials, and many consumer products. The society lauded Underhill for making “key contributions to many aspects of rheology.”

Since joining the Rensselaer faculty in 2008, Underhill and his research group have tackled several challenges related to rheology. In one study, they developed a new computational model to simulate how the interaction between flexible polymers and solvents impacts the resistance of the polymer to stretching. This work could help inform the design of microfluidic and nanofluidic devices for manipulating and separating single molecules.

In another study, funded by his Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation, Underhill is investigating how polymeric fluids including saliva and mucus affect the ability of the organisms to work together as a group. This work seeks to uncover a better understanding of how biological fluids are used as barriers to infections.

Underhill and his group are also pursuing research related to the assembly of proteins at interfaces, and using mixtures of polymers and nanoparticles to develop novel new materials.

Prior to joining Rensselaer, Underhill completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received two bachelor’s degrees, in chemical engineering and physics, from Washington University, and went on to earn his doctoral degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.