ChemMatCARS student employee Brian Leahy has gotten an exceptional head start on a career in science: The recent University of Chicago grad (B.A. physics, 2009) is the first author of a paper in the leading journal Physical Review Letters.

Brian joined ChemMatCARS, initially as an intern, in the summer before his junior year. The paper is the culmination of three years of work, conducted with ChemMatCARS senior scientists Binhua Lin and Mati Meron and Ka Yee Lee of the Chemistry Department at the University of Chicago. Leahy worked closely with Luka Pocivavsek (Ph.D., 2009), then of the Chemistry Department, in drafting this paper.

Brian Leahy

The paper, entitled “Geometric Stability and Elastic Response of a Supported Nanoparticle Film” (Leahy et al., 2010), explores the physics of folding in thin films.

“At the very beginning, we were just interested in characterizing the wrinkle-to-fold transition in thin films,” Leahy said. The team published a paper in Science in 2009 on the initial work (Pocivavsek et al., 2008).

“The next step was to further analyze the fundamental equation in that paper. We noticed that there was something odd about the bending stiffness of the film, which is explored in this most recent paper. The research then took two separate paths: one looking at the interesting material properties of the film, and another looking at ‘fundamental’ collapse properties of thin films.

Brian left ChemMatCARS last July and entered graduate school in the physics department at Cornell University this fall–with a remarkable publication list already in hand.


  • Brian D. Leahy, Luka Pocivavsek, Mati Meron, Kin Lok Lam, Desiree Salas, P. James Viccaro, Ka Yee C. Lee, and Binhua LinGeometric Stability and Elastic Response of a Supported Nanoparticle Film
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 058301 (2010). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.105.058301
  • Luka Pocivavsek, Robert Dellsy, Andrew Kern, Sebastián Johnson, Binhua Lin, Ka Yee C. Lee, Enrique Cerda
    Stress and fold localization in thin elastic membranes
    Science 320 (5878), 912-916 (2008). DOI: 10.1126/science.1154069
  • Luka Pocivavsek, Brian Leahy, Niels Holten-Andersen, Binhua Lin, Ka Yee C. Lee, Enrique Cerda
    Geometric Tools for Complex Interfaces: From Lung Surfactant to the Mussel Byssus
    Soft Matter 5 (10), 1963-1968 (2009). DOI: 10.1039/b817513f