Igor S. Aranson

Igor S. Aranson

Materials Science Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, USA

What led you into science and your chosen area of research?

Family tradition, in a large extent. My father is a mathematician. Regarding the choice of research field, I was driven by my curiosity to discover something new and exciting, at the interface of physics and biology.

Can you describe the results in your paper and their importance for your field?

The paper is a short survey of the most recent developments in the physics of active colloids, both in synthetic and living systems. The aim is elucidation of the fundamental physical mechanisms governing self-assembly and collective behavior. It includes also original results of my research, for example on the self-assembled magnetic snakes, micro-robots, micro-machines powered by bacteria. This paper is intended primarily for physicists and engineers entering the field of soft matter. However, I hope that experimentalists and theorists already working in the field will also find the paper useful for its comprehensive review of the state-of-the-art experimental and theoretical studies of active colloids.

What research projects are you working on at the moment?

We continue to study driven magnetic colloids, bacteria swimming in anisotropic liquids (living liquid crystals), living cells migrating on complex substrates. With my colleagues we are preparing a review paper for the Reviews of Modern Physics on collective behavior of interacting self-propelled particles.

What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in your field?

It is a very hard question. Not too long ago we tried (at the workshop organized by the US Department of Energy) to formulate the opportunities in dissipative self-assembly as a foundation for biomimetic systems for the next 10—20 years. I think that a synergy of synthetic biology, physics, materials science and nanotechnology will lead to the discovery of new types of materials that are capable of transducing, storing and harvesting energy, repairing damage, and even able to learn. Imagine swarms of tiny particles-robots assembling useful structures, like reconfigurable solar panels or sensors. It sounds a bit like a science fiction, but I believe we are on right track.

What book are you reading right now?

Right now I was listening music. I am usually reading books during Trans-Atlantic flights: I am flying pretty often, and the flights are long. I prefer adventure books.

If you could have dinner with any 3 people, past or present, who would they be and why?

I always enjoy having a dinner with my PhD adviser, Michael Izrailevich Rabinovich, he is now working at the University of California, San Diego. I also enjoy talking to George Whitesides, Harvard University, and Andrei Viktorovich Gaponov-Grekhov, Institute of Applied Physics, Nizhni Novgorod. I am always learning something very important from these people.

What has been the most exciting moment in your career so far?

Obviously, the very moment of scientific discovery!