Williams physics professor Kate Jensen has been awarded an NSF grant to study soft adhesion.

Nov. 23, 2021—Assistant Professor of Physics Katharine (Kate) E. Jensen has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The three-year, $413,000 grant in collaboration with Purdue University will support her research project titled “Deformation-Dependent Adhesion of Stretched Compliant Networked Polymer Systems.” The project will focus on increasing understanding of how changing the shape of soft, adhesive materials (e.g., through stretching or compression) modifies their adhesive properties and may lead to the development of new responsive adhesives.

The grant includes funding for two to three part-time undergraduate research assistants throughout the academic year, as well as two summer research stipends per year of the grant. The grant also includes two years of funding for a new postdoctoral researcher, who will mentor students in the laboratory. In addition, an “Adhesion Engineering Summer Camp” will be established to bring Williams College students to visit Purdue University’s School of Materials Engineering each summer of the project. There, Williams and Purdue undergraduates will learn about adhesion science research and experience what a graduate program in engineering is actually like.

Headshot of Kate Jensen“I’m very excited for the opportunities this grant will provide, both for advancing our understanding of soft adhesion and for engaging undergraduate students in cutting-edge research at the interface of physics and materials engineering,” Jensen said. “Much of my research in the past several years has explored fundamental aspects of soft solid adhesion in mostly fairly static contexts. With this new grant, we will now expand our studies to investigate more dynamic processes, including how soft adhesives may change their sticky properties in response to being stretched or compressed.”

At Williams since 2017, Jensen’s courses include Mechanics and Waves; Introduction to Materials Science; and Vibrations, Waves, and Optics. She also launched a new Winter Study course, The Way Things Work. Her work has been published in Soft Matter, Physical Review Letters, Physical Review X and Nature Communications, among other publications. She received her A.B. from Princeton University and her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

To learn more about Jensen’s grant, visit the National Science Foundation website.