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Linda S. Hirst

Linda S. Hirst
Title: 
Associate Professor
Office: 
S&E 1 Bldg., RM 362
Location: 
S&E 1 Bldg., RM 377
Education: 
  • Ph.D., 2001 — Manchester University
  • B.S. (Hons), 1998 — Manchester University
Awards: 
2008 - National Science Foundation Early Career Award, National Science Foundation, Division of Materials Research
Research Interests: 

Professor Hirst's research interests focus on soft-condensed matter physics, with interests in both biophysics and liquid crystal materials. In general, her research group uses experimental techniques to characterize molecular assemblies and to understand the physics behind why they form. In a wider context, her group tries to uncover the common principles of how self-organization at a molecular level can transfer physical properties across length scales to define complex structures in real biological systems and soft phases.

Professor Hirst's group uses a wide variety of experimental techniques, with significant focus on:

  • X-ray diffraction and scattering (both synchrotron and in-house)
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Transmission electron microscopy

Current research projects include the:

  • Influence of cholesterol and polyunsaturated lipids on cell membrane structure.
  • Controlling Lipid phase behavior and raft formation for “soft microfluidics”
  • Biopolymer networks
  • Bent-core and novel ferroelectric liquid crystal materials

In addition to her research interests Prof. Hirst is also the creator of softmatterworld.org, a new educational networking site for the soft matter community around the world.

Media Contact: 
Background: 

In between liquid and solid, there's a kind of matter that we see much more than we realize. Soft matter includes everything from gels to rubber to most of the human body. That means understanding soft matter is important for human health as well as for technology applications like liquid crystal display, or LCD monitors.

Professor Linda Hirst specializes in soft matter physics as it's applied in human health, materials science and technology. She studies how soft matter is assembled and how it changes under different conditions such as heating or cooling.

For example, one current project examines how cholesterol and Omega-3s interact in cell membranes. Another project addresses protein filament assembly – using the protein F-actin as inspiration for potential new gels based on similar semiflexible networks. Hirst also works on new materials for liquid crystal applications.

Hirst can comment on the emergence of soft matter physics as an important field for biological and technological applications, as well as the workings of Omega-3s and cholesterol in cell membranes and how LCDs work on a molecular level.

For more information on soft matter, you can read up at Hirst’s non-profit website, softmatterworld.org.

Books: 

2012 - Fundamentals of Soft Matter Science