My main area of research is studying the energy landscapes of model nanoscale systems that can be termed self-assembling. Unfortunately, the term 'self-assembly' is a very fashionable word that is highly overused. In order to avoid any confusion, we define systems as 'self-assembling', if they have well-defined global minima, and other stable structures (minima) on their potential energy landscapes can find their way to the global minimum climbing only low barriers.
The importance of understanding self-assembly in general is far-reaching, having implications in nanotechnology, medicine, pharmaceutics etc. Using theoretical approaches can give important insights into the overall process of assembly, and explain why certain systems form particular structures easily over a wide range of temperatures, while others don't.
During my PhD, I studied the effects of shape and interaction anisotropies of the building blocks on the self-assembling characteristics of their clusters. By using and developing new model potentials, I created building blocks that self-assemble into helices, icosahedral and non-icosahedral shells, tubes, spirals, and other exotic morphologies. My current 'hot topic' is virus capsid assembly.
For some nice images and videos about self-assembled structures see my media section. A podcast interview with me about my recent paper in ACS Nano can be found here (Episode 30, January 2010).
C. J. Forman, S. N. Fejer, D. Chakrabarti, P. Barker and D. J. Wales, J. Phys. Chem. B, 117, 7918-7928 (2013)
Local frustration determines molecular and macroscopic helix structures
(also featured on the cover of the journal, July 4 2013)
S. N. Fejer, D. Chakrabarti and D. J. Wales, ACS Nano, 4, 219-228 (2010) - Featured paper of the January issue of ACS Nano
Emergent complexity from simple anisotropic building blocks: Shells, tubes and spirals
D. Chakrabarti, S. N. Fejer and D. J. Wales, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 106, 20164-20167 (2009)
Rational design of helical architectures
S. N. Fejer and D. J. Wales, Phys. Rev. Lett. 99 (8), 086106 (2007).
Helix self-assembly from anisotropic molecules
Journal cover pages: