Nicholas Sherck Receives Dow Discovery Fellowship for 2018-21

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The faculty of the Department of Chemical Engineering has selected and awarded Nicholas Sherck the Dow Discovery Fellowship for the period 2018-21, based on merit, academic standing, and faculty recommendations. 

Sherck is honored to receive the Dow Discovery Fellowship recognition and the opportunities provided to further his research. 

“I am honored to have been selected for the DOW fellowship, particularly given the breadth of excellent research being conducted by my peers in the department,” Sherck said. “The fellowship is enabling me to continue to work on developing the computational workflow, unhindered by the need to be tied to any one specific currently funded project.”

As part of the Shell and Fredrickson Labs, Sherck's research is centered around soft matter systems relevant to industrial and consumer products; such as, paint, personal hygiene products, preceramic materials, etcetera. 

“Of particular interest are polymer-colloid systems,” Sherck said. “They are ubiquitous in soft matter.”

He finds that one of the more challenging aspects in his research is the depth of expertise required in multiple simulation methodologies. 

“The project necessitates proficiency in quantum, atomistic, and field-theoretic simulations,” Sherck said. “Each of which are at different levels of maturity, with quantum and atomistic simulations being the most well-developed, while field-theoretic simulations are relatively new on the block.”

Developing an intuition and understanding of these systems through simulation is challenging for two reasons. One, there are multiple spatiotemporal scales that span several orders of magnitude; and two, there is a lack of reliable experimental data to parameterize computational models.

“To overcome the first problem, we are using a multiscale framework that couples particle and field-theoretic simulations – the latter being pioneered here at UCSB in the Fredrickson group,” Sherck said. “And, to tackle the second problem, we are using atomistic simulations that use existing classical force-fields to parameterize larger-scale field-theoretic simulations with a powerful coarse-graining framework developed in the Shell group at UCSB.” 

This innovative multiscale, computational approach is hoped to one day be a tool that will complement the material scientist in the laboratory for future material design and discovery.

Previous Dow Discovery fellows include, Preshit Dandekar 2012-15 (Doherty Group), Nikolai Petsev 2013-16 (Shell Group and Leal Group), Richard Hermann 2015-18 (Gordon Group), St. Elmo Wilken 2017-20 (O’Malley Group and Petzold Group), and now, Sherck 2018-21.

“The fellowship competition this year was intense and the applicants were highly impressive,” said Professor M. Scott Shell, Department of Chemical Engineering Professor, and Vice Chair for Graduate Education. “The faculty were particularly impressed by the significant research progress of these students, spanning very different research areas.”

Sherck advises new incoming graduate students to remind themselves that graduate school is, “more a marathon than a sprint to the finish line.”

He also shares a reminder that developing PhD level expertise can be both exciting and challenging. 

“The process can be slow-going, and sometimes frustrating and tiring, but you need to take time for yourself,” Sherck emphasized. “And importantly, do not be afraid to spend time on research directions that you find interesting!”

When in need of a short break from his research, Sherck takes advantage of the warm climate and environment of Santa Barbara with hiking and running, and while indoors he enjoys board games and Netflix to unwind after a long day. 

“I regret that we don't have more fellowships to award,” said Professor Shell. “Wishing Nick, and all of our graduate students, continued creativity, discovery, and success in their doctoral studies.” ChE

– Melissa Walker is the Communications Coordinator for the Department of Chemical Engineering


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