SLM Director Named to Commission on Statistical Physics

Distinguished Professor M. Cristina Marchetti has been elected to the Commission on Statistical Physics as part of a select group of international scientists.

The Commission on Statistical Physics (C3) was established by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in 1945 to promote the exchange of information and views among the members of the international scientific community in the general field of statistical physics.

Marchetti, the William R. Kenan Distinguished Professor of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, was nominated for the position and elected by the commission members.

“This new leadership role continues Cristina’s incredible record as a leader in scientific societies, meetings and journals,” says A. Alan Middleton, associate dean of research and scholarship and professor and chair of the Department of Physics. “She has not only contributed at the highest levels as a formal leader, conference organizer and editor, but she has also led in initiating new divisions within societies, such the Topical Group on Soft Matter in the American Physical Society. She is well known around the world for her research and leadership in statistical physics.”

Marchetti’s research for the past 25 years has spanned a broad range of problems in statistical physics and soft matter, from superconductivity to biological physics, with a focus on nonequilibrium phenomena.

“In recent years my work has focused on the emergent behavior of ‘active matter,’” Marchetti says. “The name describes collections of self-driven entities that exhibit organized behaviors on scales much larger than that of the individuals—examples range from the flocking of birds to the sorting and organization of cells in morphogenesis [the biological process in which an organism develops its shape], and include synthetic analogues, such as engineered microswimmers.”

In 2016, Marchetti was granted a major award from the National Science Foundation for $420,000 to pursue the research.

With the breadth of her background and research, Marchetti hopes to bring to the commission “a deep appreciation for the diversity of the field of statistical physics and of its connection to other areas of physics and to other disciplines.”

Marchetti also sees the need for enhanced unity and visibility for statistical physics and its relevance to many areas of science and engineering. “This can only come from better communication across disciplinary and national boundaries, and IUPAP can play a key role in this effort,” she says.

Marchetti has also served in the soft matter and statistical physics community in various roles, including as elected chair of the American Physical Society Topical Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics and currently as chair of the recently formed Topical Group on Soft Matter (GSOFT). She has also organized conferences; served on selection committees for international prizes; and is the co-lead-editor of Annual Reviews of Condensed Matter Physics and Physical Review X.

As a mentor and teacher, Marchetti is deeply committed to increasing diversity among faculty and students in the sciences and strengthening graduate education and providing students with exposure to and appreciation for the interdisciplinarity of soft materials physics and the broad relevance of statistical physics. She has propelled new models of graduate education at Syracuse and nationally as one of four principal investigators running the Boulder Summer School for Condensed Matter and Materials Physics.


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Professor Zhen Ma Receives 2017 Lush Prize for Young Researcher (Americas)

Assistant Professor, Zhen Ma was a 2017 Young Researcher Lush Prize Winner.  He was one of five awarded this prize

The Lush Prize rewards initiatives across science and campaigning that work to end or replace animal testing, particularly in the area of toxicology research.

Now in their sixth year, they have awarded £1.8 million in prizes, aiming to bring forward the day when safety testing takes place without the use of animals.

They seek to reward those working on replacing, rather than reducing or refining animal experiments.

Find out more about the Lush Prize.

Read more.


Ma’s award was for his work titled, “Human Developing Heart Model for Animal-Free Embryotoxicity Drug Screening”

It has been reported that nearly one out of every 20 women using antidepressants three months before becoming pregnant or during the pregnancy. Deciding to continue or stop using antidepressants during pregnancy is one of the hardest decisions a woman must make. There has been a long ongoing debate about whether the use of antidepressants during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of congenital defects.

The embryotoxicity studies for preclinical drug development have been suffering from limited human studies and short of standardized assays to screen and classify the drug embryotoxicity before clinical trials. My research career focuses on the development of human-specific embryotoxicity testing model system based on human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to replace the animal-based studies, and this screening system can provide more precise assessment of human-specific drug effect on fetus development.

My project for this Lush Prize focuses on the establishment and validation of a developing heart model that recapitulates early human heart formation in a tissue culture dish. Using this heart model, I aim to establish a risk classification system of safe pregnancy medication for fetus heath, and further rank the embryotoxicity risk level of current available antidepressants in market.

Professor Lisa Manning receives Maria Goeppert Mayer award


The American Physical Society (APS) has awarded Prof. Lisa Manning the 2018 Maria Goeppert Mayer Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by a woman physicist in the early years of her career. This recognition, granted to one physicist each year since 1986, includes both a cash award and support for public lectures at up to four institutions. Prof. Manning is also invited to present her work at the national APS March Meeting in 2018. The citation notes that the award is “for her use of computational and analytical tools to develop microscopic understanding of flow in disordered materials, ranging from metallic glasses to biological tissues.”

Paper accepted in the New Journal of Physics

David YllanesMarco Leoni, and Cristina Marchetti’s paper was accepted in the New Journal of Physics on September 25, 2017. 

The accepted manuscript titled, “How many dissenters does it take to disorder a flock?” can be found here.