Personal profile

Personal profile

Professor Ken Schweizer received his B.S. degree summa cum laude from Drexel University and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), both in physics. Following a two year postdoctoral appointment in chemical physics at AT&T Bell Labs, he was a senior research scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in the Materials Directorate for 7 years. Ken joined the UIUC faculty in 1991, and is presently the G. Ronald and Margaret H. Morris Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Principal Investigator in the Materials Research Laboratory. He is an expert in the development and application of new predictive statistical mechanical theories of soft materials (polymers, colloids, nanocomposites, complex fluids) including their thermodynamics, phase transitions, structure, slow dynamics, transport properties, and nonlinear rheology in the liquid, rubber, glass and gel states of organization, both in the bulk and near interfaces and under confinement. His external research awards include Fellowship, John H. Dillon Medal, and Polymer Physics Prize from the American Physical Society, the Hildebrand Award in the Theoretical and Experimental Chemistry of Liquids from the American Chemical Society, R&D100 Award for Technologically Significant Innovation, DOE-BES Award for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishment in Materials Chemistry, Research Excellence Award from Sandia National Labs, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. At UIUC, Ken has received departmental, engineering college (GCOE), and campus wide teaching excellence awards, the Drucker eminent faculty and excellence in graduate advising awards from GCOE, and served as chair of the polymer division in MSE and was lead PI at Illinois of the NSF Nanoscience and Engineering Center for the Directed Assembly of Nanostructures.

Research Interests

Statistical Mechanics of Condensed Phases, Soft Materials, Complex Fluids; Structure, Thermodynamics, Phase Transitions, Self-Assembly, Dynamics, Rheology of Polymer Liquids, Networks, Liquid Crystals, Blends, Copolymers, Gels, Glasses; Colloidal and Nanoparticle Suspensions; Polymer Nanocomposites; Glass and Gel Transition; Nonlinear Mechanical Properties of Polymer Glasses, Physical Aging; Thin Films, Surfaces, Confined Fluids; Conjugated Polymers; Biopolymer Assembly & Dynamics; Penetrant Diffusion and Membrane Separations

Professional Information

Our overarching goal is the development and application of novel molecular-scale statistical mechanical theories of the equilibrium and dynamic properties of polymers, colloids, nanoparticles, liquid crystals, elastomers and other complex fluids and soft materials. A common theme is to both understand existing systems at a fundamental level and develop predictive methods for guiding the experimental design of new materials. Three broad areas are of present interest.

The structure of macromolecular liquids is sensitive to both the local chemical structure and global architecture of individual polymers, intermolecular forces and thermodynamic state. We are developing novel theories to predict the spatial organization and packing, statistical conformation, thermodynamics, phase behavior, elastic properties, and mechanical response of two broad classes of macromolecular materials : (i) particle-filled polymer nanocomposites, and (ii) strained melts, rubber networks and liquid crystals.

"Particle-polymer" suspensions are ubiquitous in diverse areas of science and technology . The spherical particle can be a micron-size colloid, a nanoparticle, globular protein or self-assembled micelle. How polymers influence the spatial structure, phase behavior, and viscoelastic properties of such suspensions is of importance in organic and ceramic materials science, colloid science, and biology. The presence of multiple forces (van der Waals, excluded volume, electrostatic, particle coating), variable solvent conditions, and particle/polymer size disparities results in a very rich physical behavior. We are developing new theories to predict the properties of such systems, including the subtle competition between gelation, crystallization and phase separation, structural reorganization in sticky particle suspensions, and the role of polymer rigidity, polymer-particle adhesive interactions and other chemically specific effects. The equilibrium and dynamic behavior of suspensions composed of nonspherical particles, such as a discotic nanoparticles, nanotubes and fractal aggregates, are also of interest.

A broad area of enduring interest is the slow dynamics of complex fluids. Our goal is the development and application of statistical dynamical theories formulated at the level of intermolecular forces. Present work is focused in three areas : (i) glass transition and transport properties in colloidal and nanoparticle suspensions, polymer melts and molecular liquids, (ii) gelation and viscoelasticity of particle suspensions and soft solids, and (iii) diffusion and glass formation in anisotropic and/or geometrically confined polymer melts . All the dynamics work is closely coupled with the equilibrium efforts to establish molecular-level connections between structure and time-dependent properties.

Honors & Awards

Campus-wide Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Teaching (2022)
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, elected (2021)
Joel Henry Hildebrand Award in the Theoretical and Experimental Chemistry of Liquids, American Chemical Society (2016)
Polymer Physics Prize of the American Physical Society (2008)
William L. Everitt Award for Teaching Excellence, COE, UIUC (2002)
Chair, Division of Polymer Physics, American Physical Society (1998-2001)
Associate Director, NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering
"Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures"
DOE-BESAward for Outstanding Scientific Achievement in Materials Chemistry (1996)
American Physical Society John H. Dillon Polymer Physics Medal (1991)

Office Address

Department of Chemistry
University of Illinois
206 MSEB, MC-246
1304 W. Green St.
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone


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