ChBE Seminar Series - Michael Webb

Wed Feb 20 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Refreshments will be served in the atrium outside MoSE Building Room G011 at 2:30 p.m. Seminar will be held in the MoSE Building Room G011 at 3:00 p.m.

Michael Webb, Institute for Molecular Engineering, The University of Chicago

“Models and Principles for Design of Polymer-based Materials”


Polymers represent an incredibly important and versatile class of materials, with applications that range from electrolyte solvents in batteries to simple thickening agents in foods. A grand challenge for many technological applications is thus to understand and/or predict how polymer chemistry, both in terms of its constituents and topological arrangement, modulates its functional properties at macromolecular scales. While molecular simulation provides a powerful approach to connect chemistry to function, in modeling polymers, there is often an inherent tradeoff between describing specific chemistries and describing relevant materials properties. In this talk, I will describe predictive modeling approaches for polymer materials, with particular emphasis on studying ion transport in polymer electrolytes and the behaviors of polysaccharides in solution. In each case, I will motivate and develop multi-scale simulation methodologies that endow efficient simulation models of these systems with relevant chemical characteristics. Furthermore, I will show how such models can be applied to derive new insights and/or new approaches to facilitate polymer-based materials design.


Mike grew up where The Sierra Nevada meets The Great Basin in Reno, NV—the so-called biggest little city in the world. His undergraduate study took him to UC Berkeley, where he performed undergraduate research with Berend Smit and graduated in 2011 with Highest Honors in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Materials Science. Subsequently, Mike moved to Caltech to perform doctoral research under the advisement of Thomas F. Miller III and Zhen-Gang Wang, obtaining his Ph.D in 2016 for “Studies in Path-integral and Coarse-graining Strategies for Complex Molecular Phenomena.” He is currently a postdoctoral scholar working with Juan de Pablo at the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.  Some of his awards include a graduate fellowship from the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech, a Chemical Computing Group Excellence award from the ACS, and the Herbert Newby McCoy award for outstanding achievement in research in chemistry from Caltech. His research interests generally revolve around using statistical mechanics, molecular simulation, and computation to study physical and chemical processes that span multiple time- and length scales, with an emphasis on soft matter materials.