Professor Robert Walker

IAS Fellow at Van Mildert College, Durham University (January – March 2007)

Professor Walker is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park, (USA) where he also serves as the associate chair of the university’s Chemical Physics Program. His research program uses a variety of nonlinear optical methods to examine molecular structure and chemical properties of liquid interfaces including liquid/solid, liquid/liquid, and liquid/vapor systems. Of particular interest is how properties associated with bulk solvation change across these different surfaces. To measure the width of different liquid surfaces, Professor Walker’s research group designed novel families of surfactants – dubbed “molecular rulers” – that vary systematically the location of chemical probes relative to nominal interfacial boundaries. This work was first featured in Nature (Vol. 424, pp. 296-299, (2003)) and has led to more than ten publications in peer-reviewed journals during the past three years. Other active areas of research in the Professor Walker’s research group include spectroscopic studies of fuel oxidation in high temperature solid-oxide fuel cells and molecular organization in model membrane systems.

Professor Walker has received a number of awards recognizing his research accomplishments, including an CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (USA) and a Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship

Whilst at the IAS, Professor Walker will collaborate closely with chemists at Durham to examine the fluidity, phase separation, and other properties of mixed supported lipid bilayers. At a fundamental level these studies will provide direct evidence of how symmetric and asymmetric biological species organize in two dimensions. Experiments examining bilayer stability will speak directly to questions about mechanisms of membrane failure and cell death.