Sharon C. Glotzer is an United States "digital alchemist," the John Werner Cahn Distinguished University Professor of Engineering and the Stuart W. Churchill Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, where she is also Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, Professor of Physics, Professor of Macromolecular Science & Engineering, and Professor of Applied Physics. She is recognized for her contributions to the fields of soft matter and computational science, most notably on problems in assembly science and engineering, nanoscience, and the glass transition, for which the elucidation of the nature of dynamical heterogeneity in glassy liquids is of particular significance. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Glotzer obtained her B.S in physics at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1987, and her PhD in 1993 in theoretical soft condensed matter physics research under the guidance of H. Eugene Stanley at Boston University.
Sharon Glotzer joined the National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 1993 as a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow in the Polymers Division of the Materials Science & Engineering Laboratory. She became a permanent member of the Polymers Division, and was the co-founder, deputy director, and then director of the NIST Center for Theoretical and Computational Materials Science from 1994-2000. In January 2001 she moved to the University of Michigan as a tenured associate professor in Chemical Engineering and in Materials Science & Engineering. She is now the Stuart W. Churchill Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and holds additional appointments in Materials Science and Engineering, Physics, Applied Physics, and Macromolecular Science and Engineering.
Glotzer made fundamental contributions to the field of the glass transition, for which the Molecular Dynamics simulation of Lennard-Jones spheres exhibiting heterogeneity in a 3D-liquid is of particular significance. In addition, her paper together with Michael J. Solomon on anisotropy dimensions of patchy particles has become a classic work, inspiring research directions of groups around the world. Glotzer and collaborators also hold the record for the densest tetrahedron packing and discovered that hard tetrahedrons can self-assemble into a dodecagonal quasicrystal.
Glotzer and collaborators coined the term ‘Directional Entropic Forces’ in 2011 to denote the effective interaction that drives anisotropic hard particles to align their facets prior to assembly and/or crystallization. This idea, based on Onsager's work on spherocylinders, allows for predictions of expected assembled crystal and crystal-like structures from attributes of the particles' shape.
To date, her publications have received over 22,000 citations and her h-index is 75.
Glotzer was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the Materials Research Society. She is a member of the second inaugural class of Department of Defense National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows , and was named a Simons Investigator in 2012, part of the inaugural class of Investigators. Like the MacArthur "Genius" Awardees, both NSSEFF Fellows and Simons Investigators receive significant funding to pursue unrestricted basic research. Glotzer is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Alpha Chi Sigma Award and the Charles M.A. Stine Award, both from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE); the MRS Medal from the Materials Research Society; the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award from the American Physical Society; a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE); and a Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award for Superior Federal Service. In 2014, she became an associate editor of ACS Nano.