PI: James W. Swan

Dr. James W. Swan is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. He focuses on how microstructured, in particular nano-particle, materials can be manipulated for the benefit of society. His research on soft matter is broad and has included accurate measurement of biophysical forces and the self-assembly nano-particles in microgravity. Dr. Swan aims to combine theory and simulation to model the fluid mechanics and out-of-equilibrium statistical physics that are fundamental to complex fluids and other soft matter.

James Swan received a BS in Chemical Engineering in 2004 from the University of Arizona where he worked with Drs. James Baygents and Raymond Goldstein on issues related to spatio-temporal pattern formation in diffusing and reacting systems. He earned a Masters degree in 2007 and a Ph. D. in 2010 in Chemical Engineering from the California Institue of Technology. His thesis work, under the supervision of Dr. John Brady, focused on low Reynolds number fluid mechanics and the role of macroscopic boundaries in hindering the dynamics of suspended micro-scale objects. This work led to important conclusions about the flow of complex fluids in confinement. Following this, he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Furst at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware directing experimental investigations of nano-particle self-assembly performed on the International Space Station by astronauts Sunita Williams, Kevin Ford and Chris Hadfield.

Dr. Swan's CV is available here.


Postdocs with experience modeling proteins via molecular dynamics or a strong background in statistical physics, colloid science or fluid mechanics are encouraged to apply for an open position. Please send a written request and CV to jswan (at) mit (dot) edu.

Graduate students

Andrew Fiore

Andrew graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Intstitute (RPI) in 2013, where he worked with Professor Shekhar Garde on molecular dynamics simulations of interfacially active small molecules. He is currently working on the development of fast algorithms for simulations of hydrodynamically interacting colloids with the aim to simulate multiscale processes. An application of particular interest is to understand the structure, dynamics, and instabilities in proppant supensions used for hydraulic fracturing. Other applications include the rheology of rough and non-spherical particles, and collective phenomena such as self-assembly and gelation.

Zachary Sherman

Zach graduated from Cornell University in 2013 with a BS in Chemical Engineering, working with Professor Abraham Stroock on the thermodynamic properties of metastable liquid water. In the Swan group, Zach uses theory and simulations to study the self-assembly of colloidal particles under nonequilibrium, time-varying conditions. This problem is particularly interesting because normal, equilibrium thermodynamic constraints do not apply, allowing suspensions to avoid kinetically arrested phases and potentially form new, out-of-equilibrium structures. A firm understanding of these processes would revolutionize the production of colloidal materials. Zach plans to remain in academia after his graduate education to become a university professor.

Kevin Silmore

Kevin graduated from Princeton University in 2016 with a BSE in Chemical and Biological Engineering and certificates in Applications of Computing and Materials Science and Engineering. As an undergraduate, he worked with Prof. Athanassios Panagiotopoulos on the universal scaling of surface tension of long chain molecules and contributed to HOOMD-blue, an open-source molecular dynamics package. His junior year, he also worked with Prof. Newell Washburn at Carnegie Mellon University on the properties of Pickering emulsions formed from polymer-grafted lignin nanoparticles. Kevin is interested in studying the dynamics and self-assembly of anisotropic colloidal particles. A better understanding of such processes could help inform the design of advanced materials with tunable electronic, optical, or mechanical properties and greatly expand the accessible experimental design space. Kevin is co-advised by Prof. Michael Strano and aims to effectively combine experiment and theory.

Zsigmond Varga

Zsigmond graduated with a Bachelors and MEng degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge, UK in 2013 where he worked with Professor S. Cardoso on the modeling and analyses of carbon capture and storage. His primary research interests lie in the development of a systematic understanding of the thermodynamics and kinetics of arrested materials. Familiar applications include food science, consumer products and cosmetics, they are among the most abundant soft materials in society. The particle phase of colloidal gels can be engineered for particular performance characteristics making them abundant in many high technology applications as well. Ultimately, the micro-mechanics within the arrested material give rise to macroscopic material properties that are needed for engineering applications. A long standing question is the role of hydrodynamic forces in determining the gel microstructure and gelation kinetics, which depend on the dissipation mechanisms within the gel. Zsigmond approaches the problem theoretically from the perspective of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and hydrodynamics, and computationally by using GPU-based algorithms for Brownian Dynamics and accelerated Stokesian Dynamics simulations.

Gang Wang

Gang graduated from Tsinghua University, China in 2013, where he used to work on bioengineering projects such as directed evolution and genetic engineering of E. coli, aiming at enhanced acid tolerance. Gang joined Swan Group in 2014 and started his computational work on soft matter. He is currently working on modeling and simulation of concentrated solution of monoclonal antibody (MAb). Development of high concentration MAb formulations can be challenging, since some kinds of concentrated MAbs have much higher viscosity than others. This will add the difficulty of manufacture and delivery. However, the underlying principles are still unknown. The objective of Gang's research is to build up simulation technique to understand and predict the flow properties of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, giving insight on design principles of them.

Samuel Winslow

Sam joined the group in Spring 2016 as a PhD student in Chemical Engineering. He graduated with Honors, earning a dual-degree in Chemical Engineering and Engineering & Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015 where he worked with Professors Aditya Khair and Robert Tilton on modeling the adsorption kinetics of surfactant at an oil/water interface. Sam spent his junior year abroad at Imperial College, London. In the Swan Group, Sam’s primary interest is combining experimental and simulation tools to understand, characterize, and ultimately tune the self-assembly of ligand quantum dot (QD) superlattices for stability and optical properties. His current work focuses on synthesizing stable colloidal solutions of ligand QDs with different length ligands. Following synthesis, he will begin developing a molecular dynamics (MD) model to predict ligand QD self-assembly kinetics for varying temperature, ligand functionalization, and solvent conditions. Sam is co-advised by Professor William Tisdale in Chemical Engineering.

In the fall of 2017 Dr. Swan will hire two graduate student to work on exciting research projects with broad social and scientific impact at the interface of colloid science, biophysics and engineering.

Undergraduate students

Stephon Henry-Rerrie

Undergraduate Research Opportunities are always available in the Swan group. Interested undergraduate students should contact Dr. Swan, jswan (at) mit (dot) edu.



  • Dr. Sumedh Risbud, currently Software Engineer at Intel Corporation

M.S. Students

  • Qing Xu, currently Technical Support Consultant at Aspen Technology


  • Helen Rosenthal
  • Kenneth Luo
  • Jennifer Hofmann
  • Dipanjan Ghosh