Emanuela Del Gado speaking
News Story

Emanuela Del Gado Elected as 2020 Fellow of the American Physical Society

Emanuela Del Gado, a Provost’s distinguished associate professor in the Department of Physics has been elected as a 2020 Fellow of the American Physical Society.  Less than one percent of the society’s membership is recognized by their peers for election to the status of Fellow each year.  

This year, Del Gado was recognized for her research “elucidating the microscopic underpinnings of dynamics and mechanics in gels, glasses, and other soft amorphous solids through methods of computational statistical physics.”

About Her Research

Del Gado is a theoretical physicist working on fundamental and engineering-motivated problems in material physics and statistical mechanics. Since she began working at Georgetown in 2014, her research has focused on the intersection of physics, material science and engineering.

The materials Del Gado and her team investigate are microscopically comprised of aggregates of proteins, polymers or nanoparticles which macroscopically form things like our food, personal care products, materials for biomedical applications or construction materials such as cement.

“By using computational statistical physics, we try to understand the fundamental physics of how they work — how their microstructure forms, how they respond to environmental conditions or their usage or age,” says Del Gado. “Basically, we want to identify the microstructural underpinnings of how these different things work in order to help develop new theories, understand experiments, or even devise new materials or smarter versions of them.”

Del Gado also says that understanding these materials on a deep level is the first crucial step to make better materials that are stronger, recyclable, more sustainable or more durable.

“The questions we are after are really difficult because the materials we study are very complex – for example, cement is a material that hardens as several chemical reactions develop in parallel,” Del Gado continues. “They are also challenging because these inquiries are at the frontier of what we know. The physics that describes how these complex microstructures respond to perturbations and non-equilibrium conditions is still being developed. But that makes it really exciting because we can participate in the development of new ideas and the building of new theories.”

By using computational tools rooted in statistical mechanics, Del Gado and her fellow researchers are able to perform complex calculations that go beyond basic approximations to better understand these structures.

They also devise ways to mimic measurements that are from other experiments through computer simulations. This allows them to “build bridges between experiments and the real world and abstract theories that can distill the deeper physics.”

“All of this research is done working with undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and colleagues in many institutions all over the world,” Del Gado says. “Working with students and young scientists is fun and enriching. Diversity of people is the key to excellence in science and I have learned and am learning so much from them.”

About the American Physical Society Fellows

The American Physical Society (APS) is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world.

The APS Fellowship Program was created to recognize members who may have made advances in physics through original research and publication, or made significant innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology.

Del Gado’s selection this year is a testament to her noted accomplishments as a researcher as well as an instructor of physics.

“I am humbled and thrilled to be a part of the APS Fellowship Program, it is a big honor,” says Del Gado. “As an immigrant, I feel even more welcomed and recognized by the American physics community, which is a truly international community so it is important for me.”

-by Shelby Roller (G’19)

Faculty Research