James Merrill has been awarded the Jim and Ethel Montag Graduate Physics Award for the 2022-2023 academic year. The Jim and Ethel Montag Graduate Physics Award is awarded annually to an exceptional graduate student for accomplishments in physics research.
James Merrill recently published an exciting first author paper in ACS Macro Letters, along with his advisor Prof. Connie Roth, demonstrating that the local value of the glass transition temperature in polymers is strongly increased next to interfaces with end-grafted chains. The tens-of-degree increase in local Tg that is nearly independent of grafting density and grafted chain length is entirely topological in origin as no enthalpic interactions are present in the athermal system studied. James’ new results contradict our current understanding of the glass transition in polymers where chain connectivity effects are generally considered to have limited impact compared to packing constraints imposed at the monomer level. These findings have strong implications for understanding the properties of polymer nanocomposite materials. James recently presented these results at the 2023 American Physical Society (APS) March meeting in Las Vegas.