UMass Boston

Physics Professor Mohamed Amine Gharbi Receives NSF CAREER Award

02/28/2024| Physics Department

Award will further the study of the dynamics of living active materials at structured complex fluid interfaces.

Mohamed Gharbi

Assistant Professor of Physics Mohamed Amine Gharbi has been honored with a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance the understanding of how interfaces impact the mobility of living microorganisms.

This research carries promising technological prospects as it opens avenues for the development of new functional systems applicable across various fields, such as biosensing, bioremediation, and disease treatment. Gharbi's work is poised to make a lasting impact on interdisciplinary scientific advancements.

CAREER awards support 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. This marks a historic achievement for the Department of Physics at UMass Boston, as it is the first time a faculty member from the department has received this prestigious award.

Gharbi says this recognition underscores the caliber of research being conducted at UMass Boston.

“I am deeply honored to have received this prestigious NSF CAREER award. This recognition highlights the potential of our research and reflects the dedication and commitment of my exceptional research team at UMass Boston,” Gharbi said. “Furthermore, this award underscores the standing of the Department of Physics at UMass Boston in the scientific community.”

Gharbi is set to receive $601,481 over a period of five years, starting in June 2024, for his proposal titled, "CAREER: Interfacial behavior of motile bacteria at structured liquid crystal interfaces." In this pioneering venture, his research team will harness the tunable characteristics of liquid crystals to explore novel methods for engineering complex fluid interfaces, ultimately refining control over bacterial flows. Enthusiastic about the potential outcomes, Gharbi anticipates that the insights gleaned from this project will play a pivotal role in the development of transformative applications, particularly in fields requiring the conversion of chaotic dynamics into practical work. Examples include the creation of micromotors and micromachines.

In addition to the technological impacts, the project will be integrated with educational and outreach plans that incorporate examples of soft materials to improve the teaching of physics to life science students, create opportunities for undergraduate students from non-traditional backgrounds to experience research at an early stage, and make science enjoyable to the general public.

“I am also thrilled about the transformative potential that this funding brings, particularly in terms of offering our talented students the chance to engage in high-quality research. This experience will significantly shape their academic journey and contribute to the forefront of interdisciplinary scientific advances,” Gharbi said.

Gharbi extends his heartfelt gratitude to his dedicated research team, who are at the forefront of conducting the bulk of this research. Additionally, he expresses deep appreciation for members of the Department of Physics for their unwavering and continuous support throughout this endeavor.