Staff Scientist, Theory of Nanostructured Materials
Steve Whitelam got his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 2004 from Oxford University, where he used statistical mechanics to study the dynamics of model glass-forming liquids. He was supervised by Juan P. Garrahan and David Sherrington. From 2004 – 2007 he did a postdoc with Phillip Geissler at UC Berkeley, using theory and simulation to study protein complex self-assembly and DNA overstretching. From 2007–2008 he was a postdoc with Nigel Burroughs at Warwick University's Systems Biology Centre, where he worked on actin pattern formation in cells. He is now a staff scientist in the Foundry's Theory Facility.
An open problem of materials science is to develop predictive, microscopic rules for self-assembly: given a collection of nanoscale building blocks, such as small molecules, nanoparticles, or proteins, how will they self-assemble? As time evolves, what phases and structures will they form, and what will be the yield of the 'target' structure when -- if -- it assembles? Basic understanding of this nature is required to achieve the mission of the Molecular Foundry, the atomic-level design, creation and control of energy-relevant materials. My group uses the tools and techniques of statistical mechanics to address these questions.
For example, some of our recent work with Users concerns the self-assembly of molecules on surfaces, which we study by combining experiments, quantum mechanics (done in collaboration with Jeff Neaton and Isaac Tamblyn) and statistical mechanics.