Physics research in Kudrolli lab attracts major funding support

January 8, 2014
Arshad Kudrolli, Jan and Larry Landry University Professor and chair of the Physics Department, in his lab at Clark University. Arshad Kudrolli, Jan and Larry Landry University Professor and chair of the Physics Department, in his lab at Clark University.


Despite a difficult environment for research funding around the nation in recent years, important work conducted in Clark University Professor Arshad Kudrolli’s physics laboratory has, in just recent months, attracted major research grants. Kudrolli, who is the Jan and Larry Landry University Professor at the Department of Physics, and members of the Complex Matter and Nonlinear Physics Laboratory at Clark are focusing on work related to hydrocarbon behavior (erosion, fluidity, granular flow, etc.), as well as science education. The research holds implications for environmental conservation, the oil extraction and processing industry, and others. “Important discoveries of conventional and unconventional oil and natural gas in the past five to ten years are giving rise to a need for new fundamental research that leads to a deeper understanding of grain-fluid interactions,” Kudrolli said. “We are pleased with the support for    basic physics research that has implications ranging from recovery to remediation. This is especially notable due to the tough funding climate we’re in.” “Arshad’s work combines significant research activity with exceptional learning experiences for students at all levels—high school, undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral,” said Nancy Budwig, associate provost and dean of research at Clark.  “He not only has drawn support from prestigious national funding institutions, but continues to bridge the divide between knowledge and practice.” Following are brief descriptions of the current grants:

  • Kudrolli’s “Particle Sedimentation in Clay Suspensions” research received a New Directions Award of $100,000 from the Petroleum Research Fund, an endowed fund managed by the American Chemical Society that supports fundamental research directly related to petroleum or fossil fuels at nonprofit institutions in the United States and other countries. ACS-Petroleum Research Fund grants are intended as seed money, to enable an investigator to initiate a new research direction. This grant period is effective from Jan. 2, 2014 to August 31, 2016.

This research holds implications for oil extraction and remediation efforts from the Alberta oil sands region in western Canada, which already supplies gas to the mid-western United States and will be distributed further by the Keystone Pipeline project. The laboratory project will address fundamental questions about sedimentation rates of sand in clay suspension and water recovery in tailing ponds, thus making them safe for reforestation, Kudrolli said.

  •  An NSF Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems grant of $306,684 (Aug. 2013 to July 2016) supports Kudrolli’s study of "Granular erosion, transport, and dynamic-filtration driven by fluid flow.” Here, Kudrolli and his team investigate how particles in fluid are deposited or eroded under various flow conditions. This lab work involves injecting Newtonian and visco-elastic fluids into subsurface materials and studying the observed evolution of porous interface using grain-fluid interaction laws. This fundamental research is important to understanding   new hydraulic fracturing methods, Kudrolli said, as well as a host of problems ranging to mud-cake formation in bore-wells and turbidity currents on continental shelves.
  • A Department of Energy grant of $210,920 (July 2013 to July 2016) funds the study, “Internal erosion, particle transport, and channelization driven by fluid flow.” This is a DOE-Basic Energy Sciences grant, which supports fundamental research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security.

Further in the area of STEM education,

  • Kudrolli is co-Principal Investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF) Science Learning Grant providing $1.1 million in support of the Clark Science-Math Teaching and Education Partnership (C-STEP), an extensive new project to further teaching excellence in science and math.

C-STEP, led by Clark in partnership with the Worcester Public Schools, integrates the expertise of the University’s mathematics and science faculty, urban teacher educators, and teachers.

Kudrolli will help identify and move undergraduates into internships and summer placements that channel them toward teaching physics, while raising awareness about physics education. A significant, two-year scholarship tuition opportunity also is available to eligible students interested in teaching science. The grant project spans five years (Sept. 2013 to Sept. 2018), and will involve approximately 25 Clark students from several disciplines.

Thomas Del Prete, director of the Adam Institute for Urban Teaching and School Practice, at Clark, is Principal Investigator of the NSF award. Clark’s Hiatt Center for Urban Education, directed by Katerine Bielaczyc, will coordinate evaluation of the C-STEP program. Along with Kudrolli, other Co-Principal Investigators of the C-STEP program are Professor Natalia Sternberg, chair of the Math/Computer Science Department; Associate Professor Deborah Robertson, of Biology; and Associate Professor Luis Smith, of Chemistry.

For more about the C-STEP grant, click here.

All of these grants have a focus on supporting students, who are using complex instruments in the lab, including state-of-the-art fluorescent liquid refractive index matching and micro X-ray computer tomography techniques, Kudrolli noted. Even a high school student has been active in the NSF funded project, he added. Chelsey Pan, a high school student at the University Park Campus School, does research on fluid dynamics through a sand bed with the Kudrolli team at Clark, funded in part by an endowment by Professor Emeritus of Physics Roy Andersen. About Professor Kudrolli: Kudrolli studies non-linear physics, specifically researching complex materials like sand that exist between the four states of matter—gas, liquid, solid and plasma. His lab brings together undergraduate and graduate students working together to understand the complex questions about these materials. Kudrolli has been named an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow by the Sloan Foundation. He also is a recipient of a Research Innovation Award from Research Corporation and a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. He was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2010. Kudrolli is currently on sabbatical and spending part of his time at Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California. Related links: Physics Professor Kudrolli publishes ‘Twisted Ribbons’ research Clark and city schools partner to lead $1.1M project for excellence in science/math teaching Drop by drop: Kudrolli physics lab builds landmark research on sand Research at Clark University Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark’s pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark’s faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to complex challenges in the natural sciences, psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University’s motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.