Assistant Professor of Chemistry Alan van Giessen was awarded a grant by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research fund to support his research on “Determination of the surface free energy for curved interfaces.” The two-year grant is part of the ASC’s undergraduate new investigator program.
Thus far, the grant has allowed van Giessen and his students to research the energetic and structural properties of curved interfaces between two phases of a simple, one-component fluid.
Although this area of scientific study may be unfamiliar to many, the ramifications of the interface between the two phases of matter touch lives daily, playing important roles in oil recovery, cosmetics and food production.
“If we were to achieve the major goals of this research, it will have a significant impact on the field of surface science and, in particular, the application of mean-field theory and computer simulation to the study of curved interfaces,” says van Geissen.
In addition to making an important contribution to his field, the research grant also enables van Geissen to better prepare students for the laboratory environment and teach them to develop into mature scientists.
“The development of students into thoughtful and careful scientists is one of the major goals of the chemistry department curriculum at HWS,” explains van Geissen. “Students are often lost in a sea of mathematics and my goal is to help them understand what the mathematics tells us about the physical system. It is only by understanding how theory and experiment are related that we can proceed in science.”
The initial phase of research, which began this fall and will conclude in the summer of 2013, is being carried out by several student researchers in van Giessen’s research group. This summer, van Giessen hopes to have the help of his summer student research assistants on the project.
Joining the faculty in 2008, van Giessen earned a B.S. from Purdue University and a M.S. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. He conducted postdoctoral work at Boston University and the University of Leiden. He has received the DuPont Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching Chemistry and the Wentink Prize for Outstanding Graduate Student in Chemistry. van Giessen is a member of the American Chemical Society and Sigma Xi.