“Often enough the most interesting answers appear when you least expect them” – an interview with Dr Arash Nikoubashman

Arash Nikoubashman © Johannes Gutenberg Universität 2017

Working on the Journal of Physics series, we are lucky enough to travel to plenty of conferences and learn about cutting edge physics, and meet with some fascinating researchers from a wealth of different fields. Recently at the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG) we caught up with Dr Arash Nikoubashman a young researcher at Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz, to discuss his recent work in soft matter and complex fluids and the motivation behind his research.

What research projects are you and your group currently working on?

My research group is currently working on a wide variety of projects, ranging from colloidal particles in microfluidic channels to the fabrication of polymeric nanoparticles. Although these topics seem to be rather unrelated at first glance, they share the common theme of “directed assembly”, i.e. guiding the self-assembly of soft materials into desired structures.

Find out more about Arash’s research here.

What motivated you to pursue this field of research?

Soft matter is ubiquitous in both nature (e.g., in the form of our cells and its constituents) and technology (e.g. in paint and detergent). These nanoscale particles often exhibit the peculiar ability to self-assemble into complex superstructures, for instance the self-assembly of phospholipids into the bilayer membrane of our cells. However, despite intensive research in the last few decades, there are still many unresolved questions in this field.

Where do you think the field is heading?

I believe that DNA mediated assembly will play a more significant role in the upcoming years, as the fabrication costs for tailored DNA strands is steadily decreasing and the know-how for creating DNA grafted nanoparticles is advancing. In principle, this novel type of colloids allows for precise bottom-up self-assembly, but there are still many open questions, which need to be resolved before this technology is ready for the mass market.

What current problem facing humanity would you like science to provide a solution to?

I think that one of the biggest issues in the upcoming years will be access to clean water and environmental friendly energy. These are two important cornerstones of modern civilization, which we take for granted in the developed world. However, as the human population grows and natural resources are consumed, new solutions have to be found to sustain our current way of living.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your job?

In my opinion, the work of a scientist is similar to assembling a large puzzle. There is an indescribable joy of figuring out how a small piece fits into the bigger picture. However, as we keep adding pieces, there are new pieces emerging which need to be put in place. In a sense, our work is never done but we get a (slightly) clearer picture everyday.

What advice would give to young scientists?

As a young scientist myself, I would give the advice to not put too much pressure on yourself. It is true that many problems can only be resolved by sheer persistence, but often enough the most interesting answers appear when you least expect them. Be ready for surprises!

For information about Arash’s invited talk on “Computer simulations of colloidal systems under flow” click here.

See his Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter paper on “Hopping and diffusion of ultrasoft particles in cluster crystals in the explicit presence of a solvent” here.

Find more soft matter research in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter section on Biophysics, Soft Matter and Liquids.

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Categories: Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, JPhys+

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