Nicholas Mauro

Assistant Professor of Physics; Interim Director of Undergraduate Research, PHY


(630) 637-5178

The more I observe the world around us and try to understand its intricacies, patterns, nuances and contradictions the more I'm convinced that there is a beauty to this world that can be unlocked through physics.  I'm a materials physicist, which means that the problems I've become interested in have a connection to the materials we use and utilize for applications.  I'm particularly interested in how atoms rearrange themselves as a substance encounters a phase change, like ice to water.  It turns out that this questions transcends any particular discipline and is fundamental as well as applied.

My students and I spend most of our time taking X-ray diffraction data and then modelling that data.  Those models are informed by work by our collaborators but in the end, we're trying to make models of things that exist on scales 10 billion times smaller than a meter stick.  It's pretty tricky and we have to use very sophistocated techniques.  My work these days is focused in two areas:  Metals and Ionic Liquids.  Metallic systems are useful for a wide variety of applications and we work to understand how small additions of elements can dramatically change the observed properties.  Ionic liquids are a class of molecular liquids that are usually liquid at room temperature and are comprised of a positivily charged cation and a negatively charged anion.  The ions are large, assymetrical, and aggregate into interesting patterns that affect things like transport in the liquid and the dielectric susceptability.  Many ionic liquids are candidate materials for the next generation of ion-battery.

As a physicist, I'm interested in the discovery of new technology and the discovery of new knowledge and I think the best place to do this work is at a undergraduate institution.  Students are key to my work and an education in physics and the sciences more broadly should have a strong laboratory and research component. 

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