Thomas R. Powers Professor of Engineering, Professor of Physics

Professor Powers received an S.B. in Physics and an S.B. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989. In 1995, he received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Pennsylvania, with Prof. Phil Nelson serving as his advisor. After Penn, he held postdoctoral positions in the physics departments of Princeton University and the University of Arizona with Prof. Ray Goldstein. Then he was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University with Howard Stone in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He joined the Division of Engineering of Brown University in 2000 as the first holder of the James R. Rice Term Chair in Solid Mechanics. He served as an associate editor of Reviews of Modern Physics (2009--2014), and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

research overview

Professor Powers' research interests include the physics of soft matter, molecular and cellular biomechanics, and nonlinear dynamics.

research statement

My particular current interests are locomotion at low Reynolds number and in complex fluids, and the mechanics of soft matterials such as colloidal and lipid bilayer membranes, polymers, and liquid crystals.

funded research

Current funding

NSF (National Science Foundation) DMR-1420382: Brandeis center for bioinspired soft materials  (subaward to Brown University) with K. Breuer, R. Oldenbourg, and R. Pelcovits) 11/1/14--10/31/20.

NSF CBET grant 1437195: Locomotion and transport in a liquid crystal; 9/1/14--8/31/17.

NSF CBET grant 1336638: Pushing & pulling, bending & buckling; viscosity and elasticity in flagellar swimming (with K. Breuer--PI); 9/1/13--8/31/16.

Past funding

NSF (National Science Foundation) CBET grant 0854108: Collaborative Research: Fundamental principles of swimming in a viscoelastic medium (with K. Breuer at Brown University and A. Kudrolli at Clark University); 9/1/09--8/31/13

NSF (National Science Foundation) DMS grant 0615919: Mathematical models for swimming in a viscoelastic fluid; 9/1/06--8/31/09

COBRE (Center of Biomedical Research Excellence) Pilot Grant: Role of fluid flow in nutrient transport in 3d chondrocyte culture (with V. Shenoy); 12/1/08--7/31/09.

NSF (National Science Foundation) CTS NIRT 0404031: Theoretical nanomechanics: from cells to solids (with M. Geller, PI, University of Georgia; M. Blencowe, Dartmouth College; R. Phillips, Caltech); 7/01/04--6/30/09

NSF (National Science Foundation) CAREER grant CMS-0093658 Growth and form in biological systems: a micromechanical approach; 6/01/01--5/31/06 (no cost extension to 5/31/07)

NSF (National Science Foundation) DMR-0320676, Acquisition of a Scanning Probe Microscope for Studies of
Biomolecules and Nanoscale Materials and Devices (with Jay X. Tang, PI; Gang
Xiao; James M. Valles; and Xinsheng Sean Ling); 9/1/03--8/31/04.

Brown University Research Seed Funding Award, Seed Funds in the Area of Biomaterials (with C. Brian, PI; K. Breuer; D. Hoffmann-Kim; J. Morgan; and T. Palmore;  1/1/03--12/31/03.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Biomolecular Motors, Engineered bacterial transportation systems, with K. Breuer, PI; H. Berg; G. Huber; and L. Turner;  6/1/02--12/31/03.

Mechanics of self-assembled biological microstructures: membrane tethers, Brown Division of Engineering NSF Materials Research Engineering and Science Center (MRSEC) seed funding,  2001--2003.