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Professor Daan Frenkel receives Institute of Physics’ Sam Edwards Medal and Prize

Honorary Trinity Fellow, Daan Frenkel, Emeritus Professor at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry at Cambridge, has been awarded the 2022 Institute of Physics’ Sam Edwards Medal and Prize.

Professor Frenkel received the award for seminal contributions to the understanding of the kinetics, self-assembly and phase behaviour of soft matter systems, and for developing highly innovative and influential simulation methods.

The annual awards by the Institute of Physics (IoP) celebrate scientists at every stage of their career, recognise companies that successfully apply physics and celebrate employers that demonstrate a commitment to scientific and engineering apprenticeship schemes.

Named in honour of the physicist Sir Sam Edwards (1928-2015), who worked on condensed matter at Cambridge and Harvard, the IoP award is of special significance to Professor Frenkel.

As someone who has had the privilege to know Sir Sam personally, this award is of special significance to me. Sam Edwards’ work on granular materials inspired me to developed a computational technique to count the number of ways in which spherical grains could pack, even under conditions where this number is so large as to be uncountable by conventional means.

Professor Frenkel’s research focuses on numerical calculations of the physical properties of systems consisting of large number of particles with sizes ranging from a millionth (the size of proteins) to a thousandth (the size of bacteria) of a millimetre. He developed methods to predict the patterns into which such small particles could arrange spontaneously, and how long the formation of such patterns would take.

His computational techniques help us understand why some ordered structures have a higher entropy than disordered structures of the same building blocks, but also how viruses can target specific cells.

He has published over more than 500 papers and his book, Understanding Molecular Simulation: From Algorithms to Applications, with Berend Smit, remains the definitve text about modern computer simulation techniques for undergraduates.

Congratulating the 2022 award winners, IoP President, Professor Sheila Rowan, said:

Recent events have underlined the absolute necessity to encourage and reward our scientists and those who teach and encourage future generations. We rely on their dedication and innovation to improve many aspects of the lives of individuals and of our wider society.

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