One evening,a husband and wife are working in their garden. While watering the grass, the wife holds the hose horizontally and the water flows from the end of the hose. She twists the nozzle of the hose to partially close it and suddenly the water shoots farther from the end of the hose. This seems odd to her husband, who wonders, "Why does the stream of water travel farther, since it appears that less water is flowing from the end of the hose?" My challenge is to give a scientific explanation for this unnatural phenomenom.
Professor Hilgenfeldt conducts theoretical and experimental research on the interfacial structure and dynamical evolution of foam and soft condensed matter. He has elucidated fundamental processes in interface dynamics, including sonoluminescence and domain coarsening, and applied results to develop a new and powerful kind of microfluidic flow excitation. His research has important implications for drug delivery, gene therapy and cell diagnostics, as well as generally enhancing the understanding of the mechanics of life.
Working with colleagues in the biological sciences, he recently created a functional equation that describes how living cells pack together to create fruit fly eyes. He created the quantitative model of cell geometries using only two factors: the energy of the adhesion molecules that hold nearby cells together and the energy from the stretching of the cells' membranes. The model helps researchers understand how adhesion energy changes the shape of the eye and allows them to study how such molecules develop and function during embryo development. His group is currently testing whether this model can be applied to different kinds of tissues, which could lead to advances in regenerative medicine.
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