Phase transitions in active matter, German-Arabic language phenomena, and collective action
Leipzig University is attracting more and more bright minds from abroad. Four scholars from India, the US and Egypt have just begun their time as researchers at Leipzig - each with a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
The theoretical physicist Dr Lokrshi Prawar Dadhichi from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Hyderabad (India) will spend the next two years conducting research at Leipzig University on a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Dadhichi specialises in unusual phase transitions in so-called active matter. Its molecular building blocks are permanently supplied with individual energy. This allows them to move autonomously. This property, commonly found only in living organisms, is increasingly being mimicked in -bottom-up- synthesised materials. With such unusual active materials, it is then possible to defy certain iron rules of physics that apply to passive, inanimate materials. For example, active materials exhibit what is known as reverse Ostwald ripening, which turns the universal phase transformation process - so named after the Leipzig Nobel Prize winner Wilhelm Ostwald - on its head.
Dadhichi comes from one of the world’s leading groups in this rapidly expanding field of research, to which he himself contributed important pioneering work during his doctoral studies. Where Ostwald himself once worked before him, he now hopes to advance his theories in collaboration with the local theoretical and experimental groups led by Professor Klaus Kroy of the Institute for Theoretical Physics and Professor Frank Cichos of the Peter Debye Institute for Soft Matter Physics. Professor Nahla Tawfik, Herder Institute, email Dr Glenda Satne from the University of Wollongong in Australia has been conducting research at the Institute of Philosophy at Leipzig University since June on a research fellowship for experienced researchers. Her academic interest is in collective action. This plays an important role in our lives, for example in team sports, music groups, protests, traffic jams and efforts to protect the climate. In all these cases, a group of individuals achieves a result that no one could achieve alone. At first glance, however, these forms of collective action appear very different: some are competitive, others cooperative; some are predominantly instrumental, others seem to have no practical use at all; some are done knowingly and willingly, while others are largely unintentional; some involve complex decision-making methods and written procedures, others are spontaneous and short-lived. In her project, Dr Satne aims to develop a new conceptual framework for the study of collective action. This should give rise to novel conceptual tools for comparing collective actions along different dimensions of analysis and for examining how collective and individual actions differ or resemble each other.