Dr. William E. Uspal received a B.Phil. degree in Engineering Physics, Mathematics, and Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007. His undergraduate thesis concerned coarse-grained molecular simulations of membranes and vesicles. Subsequently, he carried out doctoral research under the supervision of Prof. Patrick S. Doyle at M.I.T., earning a Ph.D. in Physics in 2013. In his doctoral thesis, he considered how flowing suspensions of particles in microfluidic devices can self-organize through disturbances they create in the flow of the carrier fluid. From 2013 to 2018, Uspal worked as a Postdoctoral Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart. At MPI-IS, he studied the behavior of chemically active colloids in complex aqueous environments, with a view towards potential applications in micro- and nanorobotics.
At the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Uspal is building the Self-Organization and Active Matter research group. The long-term vision of this group is to reproduce emergent features of life in synthetic materials systems on the basis of physics and chemistry. Through judicious design of nano- and micro-scale components and driving forces, advanced materials could realize self-healing, self-motility, homeostasis, and information processing, among other characteristic features of life. Since living systems maintain themselves by continuous dissipation of energy, these advanced materials will also operate away from thermal equilibrium, driven by external fields (e.g., magnetic or electric fields) or by chemical free energy harvested from molecular fuel.
Uspal’s recent interests include modeling microswimmer locomotion, the statistical mechanics of fluctuating active colloids, and artificial chemotaxis. He typically uses tools from theoretical and computational fluid dynamics, statistical mechanics, and dynamical systems theory, as well as various soft matter simulation methods.