Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004
Program contact: Daniel Cox (415) 867-4992
Media contact: Abby Lunardini (510) 987-9004 / abby.lunardini@ucop.edu


A five-year $3.5 million National Science Foundation grant will establish the NSF Materials International Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter as a subsidiary of the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter.

The Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM) is a University of California multicampus research project devoted to revealing the principles by which matter, both living and inanimate, organizes itself to reveal surprising, emergent behavior.

The new international insitutute (I2CAM) will expand ICAM by linking researchers and resources at four UC campuses and two national laboratories managed by the University of California, 11 other domestic universities and colleges, and 21 European research partners.

As a multi-institutional partnership, I2CAM members will use the World Wide Web to exchange collaborative research and scientific training from the chemical, physical and biological disciplines. I2CAM will expose junior scientists to the rich interdisciplinary environment necessary to understand emergent properties of complex matter.

"It is tremendously exciting for the University of California to play a key role in convening top researchers to focus their efforts on issues that fall at the boundaries of conventional scientific disciplines," said Lawrence Coleman, vice provost for research at the University of California Office of the President. "I2CAM is a model for the kind of global, interdisciplinary partnerships that are needed at the frontiers of scientific research."

At the core of the ICAM/I2CAM efforts is the search for an understanding of emergent behavior -- phenomena which arise from interactions between many simple units, but which cannot be easily predicted from knowledge of the component parts alone. One example of emergent behavior is the organization of proteins into complexes in living organisms, some of which are functional (such as microtubules) and some dysfunctional (e.g., Alzheimer's or mad cow diseases). Thus far, scientists have met only partial success in predicting the working structure of even individual proteins from knowledge of their atomic order. One goal of ICAM/I2CAM is to push these boundaries and focus resources on exploring the principles underlying this vast and important frontier of protein complexes.

Another emergent phenomenon explored by ICAM scientists is "quantum mayonnaise," a novel behavior of electrons in solids. In ordinary mayonnaise, oil and water, which normally don't mix, are held together with the assistance of egg yolk, in regions about a millionth of a meter in size. In some novel solid materials like high-temperature superconductors, it appears that electronic states that normally don't mix, such as an electrically insulating magnetic phase and an electrically conducting non-magnetic phase, are held together in a kind of self-generated quantum mayonnaise, in regions of size a few billionths of a meter.

"In the materials research community it has long been recognized that we are facing a new era of research that requires a collaborative and international effort capable of fully exploring the field," said Daniel Cox, UC Davis professor of physics and CEO of I2CAM. "By bridging disciplines, institutions and countries through scientific exchange and the World Wide Web, I2CAM will do just that and is likely to stimulate exciting new research in the field."

Participating in I2CAM are: Boston College, Boston University, Cambridge University, University of Chicago, Florida State University, Iowa State University, a Max Planck Institute consortium, a Paris consortium, Princeton University, Rutgers University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and UC campuses at Davis, Irvine, Riverside and San Diego.

The ICAM Board of Governors and Science Steering Committees includes 13 members of the National Academy of Sciences and one Nobel laureate.

For more information about ICAM and I2CAM, visit: http://icam.ucop.edu

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