UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ayusman Sen, distinguished professor of chemistry at Penn State, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany. The award recognizes a researcher “whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.”
Winners are invited to spend a period of up to one year collaborating on a long-term research project with colleagues at a research institution in Germany. The award recognizes Sen’s pioneering work in the field of synthetic chemical motors and active matter.
Sen’s current research focuses on developing new ways to engineer dynamic materials at the molecular level that are capable of transforming themselves, as well as their equally dynamic environments. Specifically, his research group is exploring how nano- and micro-scale objects can generate chemically-powered motion to move on their own or to act as fluid pumps. They are also studying how to replicate and control collective behaviors like migration or swarming in synthetic systems and how to apply particle-based systems at the nano- and micro-scale to real-world applications like sensors, transport of cargo, and information processing.
Sen's honors and awards include the Langmuir Lecture Award from the American Chemical Society in 2019, the Chemical Research Society of India medal in 2011, a Faculty Scholar Medal from Penn State in 2003, a Paul J. Flory Award from IBM in 1988, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship from 1984 to 1988, and a Young Investigator Award from the Chevron Research Company in 1982. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Society of Chemistry. He also served as a member of the scientific advisory board for the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany in 2013.
Sen was a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology until 1979, when he joined the faculty of the Penn State Department of Chemistry as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 1984 and to professor in 1989. He served as the head of the Department of Chemistry from 2004 to 2009 and was named a distinguished professor of chemistry in 2010.
Sen received a doctoral degree from the University of Chicago in 1978 and a master's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur in 1973. He earned a bachelor's degree with honors at the University of Calcutta in India in 1970.
Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards to internationally renowned academics in all disciplines. The award is named after the late Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt.