The CAREER award is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for early career faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.” 

A major part of this project is a partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. The Non-technical Abstract of his project is as follows:

One of the most basic ways scientists learn about a material is to manipulate it and then quantitatively measure how it responds: for example, we say a rubber ball is elastic because it rebounds quickly after we squeeze it, or we say honey is viscous because it flows slowly when we pour it. These materials are examples of systems at equilibrium; left on their own, they are static, passive, and lifeless. For these systems, we have a well-established and robust theoretical framework for analyzing how they respond to external perturbations. However, when we look at the world around us, we see situations that are dynamic, evolving, and alive; these systems are out of equilibrium. Here, our understanding is not nearly as robust, and no comprehensive theory exists. This CAREER award supports theoretical research and education focused on the early steps in developing a novel theoretical framework for understanding response in nonequilibrium systems.

The aim of this project is to develop quantitative predictions that capture the trade-offs between how a system responds and how far a system is away from equilibrium. Such quantitative trade-offs not only inform us about fundamental principles of nature, but they also provide guidance on how to design the most responsive nonequilibrium materials. Coupled with experimental data, this approach offers constraints on possible theoretical models. To accomplish this goal, the project will analyze specific theoretical models drawn from diverse disciplines using modern tools of nonequilibrium physics that can then be generalized to make fundamental and generic statements. These activities will involve students, providing cross-disciplinary training in statistical physics and biophysics, as well as mentorship and professional development skills.

A major part of this project is a partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History to create outreach programs that engage the public with the scientific principles that underpin this research. Included is the development of a hands-on museum exhibit as well as an inquiry-based middle school curriculum.

You can read the full award notification here.

Jordan is Assistant Professor of Complex Systems, Biophysics and Physics. He  joined the University of Michigan in January 2019.