Applied mathematics prize for early career chemist

Congratulations to Clare Rees-Zimmerman, a Junior Research Fellow in Dirk Aartsgroup, who has won the prestigious 2023 IMA Lighthill-Thwaites Prize. This biennial award recognizes an outstanding applied maths paper published by an early career researcher.

The winning paper that Clare submitted is based on work she did during her PhD, modelling drying processes in thin films such as paint – but rest assured, it’s much more interesting than watching paint dry!

Her research, presented at the British Applied Mathematics Colloquium 2023 in Bristol last week, involves modelling how particles of different sizes arrange themselves in a film during the drying process, with the aim of controlling this phenomenon for engineering applications.

Accumulation of small particles at the top surface of a drying film containing two sizes of particle.

Clare's prize-winning paper models drying processes in thin films.

Clare’s work may help to develop cheaper and more sustainable materials, where drying processes could be engineered so that expensive components are only located where they are required.

She demonstrated how a phenomenon called diffusiophoresis can explain the observed accumulation of small particles at the top surface of a drying film. She derived asymptotic solutions to characterize the fast evaporation regime, achieving a top layer of almost entirely small particles.

The judging panel’s decision was unanimous. They were particularly impressed with Clare’s wide appreciation of applied maths, despite her background being in chemical engineering.

Clare expressed her delight at being recognized for her work, and her success demonstrates the potential for chemical engineers to excel in applied mathematics and reinforces the importance of cross-disciplinary collaborations in tackling complex problems. Congratulations to Clare on this well-deserved recognition!

Read Clare’s prize-winning paper.