Professor Michael Allen
I am on Study Leave for the academic year 2012/2013. I shall be visiting:
- Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Sciences Swinburne University, Melbourne
- Nanobionics Group Monash University, Melbourne
- Institute for Frontier Materials Deakin University, Geelong
- Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences Cambridge University
- Departments of Physics and Chemistry Bristol University
I am currently Chair of the Institute of Physics Liquids and Complex Fluids Group.
PhD position for October 2013 available
Modelling the Self-Assembly of Gold Nanorods
Project description: . Further details: m dot p dot allen at warwick dot ac dot uk.
This project has been identified by the department as eligible for competitive funding
In 2011/2012 I was Chair of the Physics Department Teaching Committee. I have recently taught several modules in Physics, listed below, as well as supervising final year BSc and MPhys projects and holding tutorials for first- and second-year Maths-Physics students. I am an external examiner for Physics at the University of Bath, and was recently external examiner at the University of Leeds.
Last year, and again this year, I employed a new delivery method for my lectures using the Livescribe Pulse Pen, which records what I say and what I write, for later playback by students. The intention was to improve the student experience in mathematically-heavy modules (here PX366 Statistical Physics and PX261 Mathematical Methods II), especially when they come to revise the material. Student feedback from both modules has been very positive, and students have encouraged me to share my experiences with other lecturers. The approach is not perfect, and others may advocate alternatives (e.g. tablet computers), but for me the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. See my Blog for comments on how this went. For Warwick people, the actual pencasts can be found on the px366 and px261 Supporting Materials pages.
- PX261 Mathematical Methods for Physicists II
- PX366 Statistical Physics
- PX428 MPhys Laboratory (simulation experiments)
- PX442 Laboratory for Maths-Physics Students (simulation experiments)
- NM1 Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics (graduate module for MPAGS)
Inspired by my cheesy pun "How do you solve a problem like Fourier" in the Maths Methods module, two of our students, Benjamin T. Milnes and Angharad le Duc, have written the lyrics and performed this wonderful song on the subject!
My group carries out computer simulations of condensed matter systems at the molecular level, with most current activity focused on liquids and liquid crystals. The theme of the research is the understanding of the link between molecular structure and the properties of materials. Here is a videolecture taken at a conference in 2010 describing some of this work.
Computer simulations act as a bridge between experiment and theory. In order to understand complex fluid behaviour, we need an accurate theory; but the theoretical predictions also depend on how accurately we model the molecular interactions.
Computer simulation helps to test the theory independently of the precise molecular model, making the results more reliable and more generally applicable. We begin by feeding in details of the molecular interactions. The computer is then used to simulate a system of molecules: sometimes just a few hundred, sometimes as many as a million, to calculate bulk properties, structure, and dynamics at the microscopic level.
We use a wide range of simulation techniques, from straightforward solution of Newton's equations of motion, molecular dynamics, to more specialised statistical mechanical sampling methods, usually termed Monte Carlo. The process can be thought of as a kind of "virtual reality", familiar from computer games and the design of buildings, but on the molecular scale.
In a way, we are theoreticians performing particular kinds of experiments. The computer is our experimental apparatus. Some of these calculations can be performed on laboratory workstations, or even PCs. Others require the most powerful supercomputers in the country, in which hundreds of processors work on the problem in parallel. The group has been closely involved in the development of new computer programs to take advantage of these facilities in the most efficient way possible. The group interacts with many others around the University, especially in the Chemistry and Engineering departments.