Alberto Fernández-Nieves

Alberto Fernández-Nieves

Universitat de Barcelona

Experimental Sciences & Mathematics

I was born in Granada (Spain) in 1973. I studied physics and graduated with a PhD from the University in my hometown city in the year 2000. My post-doctoral work was under the supervision of Prof. David A. Weitz in the Department of Physics and DEAS at Harvard University. I subsequently held a lecturer position at the University of Almeria and an INEST Visiting Professor position at Harvard University. In 2008, I became Assistant Professor of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I obtained tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014. I have performed research in soft matter, making substantial contributions to the physics of geometrically frustrated liquid crystals, surface-tension-driven instabilities and the thermodynamics of colloidal polymer gels. For my pHD work, I was awarded the prize for young researchers in experimental physics of the Spanish Royal Society of Physics and the doctoral thesis prize from the University of Granada.

Research interests

My research interests are in experimental soft condensed matter. We study a variety of classical many-body systems that have characteristic energy scales accessible at room temperature and that are internally characterized by mesoscopic length scales. As a result, these soft materials are easily deformable by external stresses and fields, or even by thermal fluctuations, and have microscopic dynamics and structural features that can be directly imaged using optical-microscopy techniques and probed using light scattering; this enables addressing many open questions in equilibrium and non-equilibrium physics. Recent research involves partially ordered fluids, colloidal crystals and glasses, and active matter. A recurring theme is the presence of defects in the order and how they sense and respond to the local geometry, the local environment and the system’s inherent activity. We are also interested in fluid mechanics and hydrodynamic instabilities.

Selected publications

- Anderson C & Fernandez-Nieves A 2022, 'Social interactions lead to motility-induced phase separation in fire ants', Nature Communications, 13, 1, 6710.

- Anderson CJ, Gibson PA & Fernandez-Nieves A 2022, 'Janssen effect in columns of fire ants', Physical Review E, 106, L012604.

- Houston JE, Fruhner L, de la Cotte A, Rojo González J, Petrunin AV, Gasser U, Schweins R, Allgaier J, Richtering W, Fernandez-Nieves A & Scotti A 2022, 'Resolving the different bulk moduli within individual soft nanogels using small-angle neutron scattering', Science Advances, 8, 26, eabn6129.

Selected research activities

Invited talks at conferences/workshops: (i) American Physical Society March Meering, Chicago (IL, USA), (ii) "Dispersions: Drops, Particles and Bugs, Science, Sttartups and Success", Benasque (Spain), (iii) "Jornada Anual de Medios Porosos - Spain Interpore Chapter", Madrid (Spain)

Invited colloquia/seminars: (i) Paul Scherrer Institute (Switzerland), (ii) Leiden University (The Netherlands), (iii) ESS-Max IV (Sweden), (iv) U Texas at Austin (USA), (v) Emory University (USA), (vi) Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Spain), (vii) Aachen University (Germany)

Thesis advised: Jyo Nambisan, Georgia Tech

Master thesis advised (UB): Iker Zamorano Vega

Undergraduate students advised (UB): Marta Grasa Lainez (tfg), Ivan Salvador (practicas de empresa)

Refereeing: Phys Rev Lett, Phys Rev X, Phys Rev Materials, Nature Comm, J Fluid Mech, Soft Matter, J Colloid Interface Sci, Phys Chem Chem Phys

Conference organization: (i) Focus Session: “Driven and Active Granular Matter”. 2022 American Physical Society March Meeting (Chicago, IL, USA); (ii) Frontiers in Soft Condensed Matter, XXXVIII Biennial of the Spanish Royal Society of Physics (Madrid, Spain)

Scientific commitee, 9th Iberian Meeting on Colloids and Interfaces

Personnel Grants: EU/UB Maria Zambrano

Research projects (PI): MINECO, 121.000€

Research contracts (PI): Treefrog Therapeutics, 218.283€