Hiram College

Student researchers to help tap answer to smarter smart materials

How do polymers respond to temperature, pressure and other environmental changes? The National Science Foundation awarded $124,000 to Mark Taylor, associate professor of physics at Hiram College, to answer that question through advanced computer simulation techniques and models. Taylor’s findings could lead to smart materials designed with features that respond to changes in the environment and reverse back to their previous states.

“I’m working toward an understanding of some unique physical properties of polymers that will hopefully allow for the development of a whole class of smart materials,” says Taylor, explaining that his research involves basic theory of macromolecule physics. Taylor and his Hiram student researchers are investigating, in particular, folding behaviors found in biological systems. Their findings could lead to the development of actuators, sensors and medical devices that function with improved predictability.

Taylor’s ultimate goal, however, is to engage Hiram students in scientific research, much like he conducted as an undergraduate student majoring in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Undergraduate research is a wonderful educational opportunity that I benefited from as a student at MIT,” he says. “I hope that some of my own passion for research and enthusiasm for teaching will inspire my students to pursue careers in science.”

As with Taylor’s two earlier NSF awards, the new grant will fund summer research students at Hiram. To date, Taylor has funded 27 full-time summer research positions for Hiram students, most of whom have presented their research at regional and national physics meetings.


Hiram undergraduate student researchers, from left, Christopher Vinci, Ryogo Suzuki, Christian Walker (with Mark Tayor, associate professor of physics) and Joe Rozalski.

Taylor received his Ph.D. in physics from Brandeis University. Before he began teaching at Hiram in 2001, Taylor taught and conducted research at Dartmouth College and Swarthmore College. At Hiram he has published 16 articles, five of which include Hiram student co-authors. He has 46 peer-reviewed research publications and his papers have been cited more than 850 times in scientific literature.More details about Taylor’s new NSF grant are available at


Links to all of Taylor’s research publications are available at http://www.hiram.edu/majors-and-minors/physics/faculty-and-staff/mark-taylor/mark-taylor-publications .