homepage of dr richard sear
I contribute to a blog. You can see there for slightly random thoughts on science that I find interesting. I also do most of the running of the Department's Twitter account. You can see tweets here, and even follow the Department on Twitter: Follow @PhysicsatSurrey Finally, I organise the seminars of the Soft Matter group. We have around 6 external speakers per semester. I keep an uptodate list of speakers and dates.
Surrey student looking for teaching material? You probably want the relevant module on SurreyLearn.
How good a scientist am I? Metrics are very fashionable these days; by one metric I am about twice as good as a Nobel (and Ignobel) prize winning scientist's hamster.
Current PhD students and postdocs:Laurie Little (2013-) is doing a combined experimental and modelling PhD with Prof Joe Keddie and I.
Recent PhD students and postdocs:
Amanda Page (nucleation) 2010
Piyapong Asanithi (experimental, with Dr Alan Dalton) 2010
Azura Che Abdullah (experimental, with Dr Alan Dalton) 2011
Vinicio Gonzalez-Perez (biological physics) 2013
Interested in doing a PhD?
The Soft Matter group can bid for EPSRC funds from a University pot, this would fund a UK (only, sorry) student to do a PhD. These funds are flexible and fund projects in any area of mutual interest to the prospective student and supervisor. If you are thinking about doing a theoretical/simulation PhD in the general areas of computational soft matter physics/biological physics, then I am happy to discuss this. Drop me an email. A non-UK student would need their own funding.
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I am a soft matter computational physicist, and my current research is mostly in two areas. The first is the nucleation of crystals, and the second is biological physics. Nucleation is the first step in the formation of a crystal, and it is a rare (and so elusive) event in the sense that only one nucleation event is required to make a crystal. My biological physics research is mainly into the dynamics of proteins inside cells. I am a member of the Department's Soft Matter group. You can see what we look like here. The picture above is of a bay in my native south Wales.
Research on the nucleation of crystalsI study how crystals start to form, which is as a microscopic crystallite. The image to the left is from a computer simulation of nucleation. It shows a microscopic crystallite of only a few hundred molecules. The crystal is of a simple model of spherical molecules: the Lennard-Jones potential. Each spherical molecule is actually identical, the colours are used to show that the crystal that has nucleated has a defect. Yellow spheres are particles that are locally in one crystalline environment (the face centred cubic crystal), blue spheres are particles in a different crystalline environment (the hexagonal close-packed crystal), and grey spheres are actually in a local environment that has five-fold symmetry - a symmetry forbidden in a large crystal.
The nucleus of the crystal, like that shown above, then goes on to grow into a large crystal like a snow flake, or a salt crystal. To do this I typically work with simple models and look for fundamental features that may be common to ice formation, crystallisation of pharmaceuticals, and even of proteins.
I am currently working on understanding at how the rate at which crystals form (nucleate) can vary by orders of magnitude due to hidden differences between one crystallising droplet or air sample, and another. See my LabTalk article on a recent paper of mine. I use ideas from fields such as extreme value statistics to make experimentally testable predictions.
Research on biological physicsI also model the dynamics of proteins, DNA etc inside living cells. I have a collaboration with muscle cell biologists on modelling the dynamics of the protein Dystrophin inside live muscle cells. Dystrophin is a medically important protein, the absence of this protein causes the genetic disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The muscle cells belong to zebrafish. This work is almost finished, I'll put up more details when it is published.
Latest results: Nucleation on a surface that is changing with timeEssentially all work on nucleation (which almost always occurs at a surface) has assumed that the surface is not changing with time. I am studying what happens when this assumption is wrong, when the surface is changing with time. Here is a simple movie made from a computer simulation I have done on nucleation of a new phase (shown in red) on a surface (black) that is eroding:
In many simple systems like this nucleation is much faster on a concave part of a surface than on a flat surface. Erosion creates both dips, in which nucleation is much faster, and peaks (where nucleation is much slower but that is irrelevant as nucleation occurs in the dips).
This has predictions that are potentially testable in experiment. In particular, there is a pronounced waiting time, during which the necessary erosion occurs, before nucleation starts to occur. This waiting time does not occur when the surface is not changing with time.
Short biographyI grew up in South Wales, and then started my scientific career with a BSc in Chemical Physics (1992) followed by a PhD (1995) at the University of Sheffield. The PhD was with George Jackson (who is now at Imperial), and was mainly on calculations of liquid phase diagrams. From 1995 to 1997 I was a postdoc at AMOLF, a research institute in Amsterdam. I worked with Bela Mulder and Daan Frenkel (who is now at Cambridge). Then I spent one year in the sun at UCLA in Los Angeles, working for Bill Gelbart and Jim Heath (now at Caltech). This was on modelling the self-assembly of Jim's metal nanoparticles at the water/air interface.
I was appointed here as Lecturer here in 1998, and I have been here ever since, although I am now a Senior Lecturer, and so get paid a little more and have to go to more meetings. Over my years at Surrey my research moved to focus on nucleation -- this is how phase transitions like boiling and freezing start -- and is now mostly focused on understanding the nucleation of crystals. I have also worked on a number of areas of biological physics. These have including the evolution of protein interactions, cell signalling, and studies of phase separation in living cells.
As you've scrolled all the way down here, I can tell you that my Erdös number is at most 4
The path is: Erdös - Salamon (1) - Berry (2) - Doye (3) - me (4). See here for what Erdös
numbers actually are (they are the science equivalent of Bacon numbers if you know what Bacon numbers are).
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