Arlette R.C.Baljon
Associate Professor
Department of Physics
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92128

Office: P-136
Tel: (619)-594-2051
Fax: (619)-594-5485

        Research: Physics of - Polymeric and Biological - Soft Matter

Physics may be viewed as a collection of concepts.  By combining these concepts we are able to understand a wide range of phenomena.  My area of research, soft matter physics, is only a few decades old.  Hence, unlike in older fields, many phenomena can not be explained in terms of established concepts.  New ones must be developed. The main purpuse of my research is to contribute to the formulation of these new concepts.   To this end, I perform computer simulations of yet unexplained phenomena.  Insights obtained in these studies pave the way for more encompassing theories and constitutive equations with a wide range of applications. 

A more specific objective is to enhance physical understanding of  polymeric materials and biological systems driven far from equilibrium by a stress that is high relative to intrinsic relaxation times. This involves phenomena like yielding and phase slip, plasticity, crazing, shear banding, flow-induced ordering, memory, and information content of far-from equilibrium systems.

My research has focused on the glass transition in nanometer thin films and on nonlinear transient phenomena in reversible polymeric gels.   To this end, we have developed a novel hybrid MD/MC simulation code, which now works with the LAMMPS software. We studied how macroscopic response is encoded in the structure and dynamics at the microscopic level.  In collboration with biologist and other SDSU scientists, I also modeled the complex structure of the mitochondrial inner membrane and investigated how its complexity enables its function.

My current research mainly aligns with that of SDSU's Viral Information Institute, a cross-disciplinary effort to characterize and study the global virosphere. In particular, I am interested in the contribution of mucus to the human immune system. VII experimentalists have shown that mucus helps phage to protect the body against bacterial pathogens and is crucial for a healthy microbiome. As any adaptive polymeric network, mucus will encode information about its environment into its structural and dynamical patterns. How does mucus help phage to hunt for bacteria and defend the human body? Is healthy mucus wired or rewiring in a specific way? I hope such knowledge will inform other fields such as the "neuroscience of the gut" and personalized medicine.

I am also studying reflective and contemplative pedagogies, an SDSU community effort. How can reflection and beholding exercices help students to internalize new cognative knowledge? Can students become aware of how their perceived inability to solve a problem prevents then from "diving into it"? (in particular this is an issue when transferring and adapting knowledge and skills to new contexts). I wonder if artistic expressions can help develop somatic intuitive insight into scientific problems, which could lead to novel creative and imaginative solutions.

My research is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR theory), Petrolium Research Foundation (American Chemical Society), CA State University's Course Redesign Institute, as well as SDSU's and philantropic support for the Viral Information Institute.

Here are some of our featured papers (more can be found below and a complete list on google scholar)

Topological changes at the gel transition of a reversible polymeric network Tensile forces and shape entropy explain observed crista structure in mitochondria

        Course information:

Physics 354, Modern Physics

Physics 608, Graduate Classical Mechanics

Physics and Chemistry 538, Polymer Science (offered Spring 2016)

Physics 606 Graduate Statistical Mechanics

Info for students interested in research

        Recent Publications

J. Barr et al. Subdiffusive motion of bacteriaphage in muscosal surfaces increases the frequency of bacterial encounters PNAS (2015)

M. Wilson, A. Rabinovitch, and A. Baljon Computational Study of the Structure and Rheological Properties of Self-Associating Polymer Networks Macromolecules 48, pp 7-12 (2015)

J. Billen, M. Wilson, and A. Baljon Shearbanding in Simulated Telechelic Polymers Chem. Phys. 406, pp 7-12 (2015)


                 this page last updated: 7/31/15