UC & sister institutions form 'Institute Without Walls' for transdisciplinary collaborations

July 23, 2002

The University of California and a group of sister institutions announced today creation of the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter as an international, multi-campus organization exploring the frontiers of science.

As an "Institute without Walls" the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM) will promote transdisciplinary collaborations between physical and biological scientists around the world. Topics will range from the mysteries of "Mad Cow" disease to self-assembling materials.

ICAM was conceived at a workshop at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in December, 1998, and became an independent unit of the University of California with headquarters at Los Alamos in March, 1999, before evolving to the international form unveiled today.

Founding branches of ICAM are at the University of California at Davis, University of California at Riverside, University of California at Irvine, Boston College, University of Chicago, Florida State University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Iowa State University, Rutgers University, and a consortium of Max Planck Institutes led by the Max Planck Institute for the Chemistry and Physics of Solids in Dresden.

UC San Diego and a consortium of French scientific institutions in the Paris area are expected to become ICAM branch members shortly.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will serve as ICAM's lead campus. The laboratory is one of three national laboratories managed by the University of California for the federal government.

Topics explored at ICAM workshops so far include the organizing principles that may be responsible for the folding of proteins and their association with illnesses such as Alzheimer's and "Mad Cow" disease, the measurement and understanding of emergent behavior in high temperature superconductors, designing self-assembling materials, the emerging field of biological physics and the physics of measuring systems on the nanometer (one billionth of a meter) length scale.

The institute is developing a graduate student and postdoctoral exchange program for three-to-nine-month residencies at different campuses or ICAM branches. ICAM faculty on branch campuses are being encouraged to develop new interdisciplinary courses for graduate students and research programs that might lead to a designated emphasis for a Ph.D. in complex adaptive matter.

ICAM also plans to make scholarships available to K-12 teachers and students to attend ICAM-related workshops and participate in ICAM-supported research.
The institute received initial financial support from the UC Office of the President and from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It has also received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. The institute plans to seek additional private and public funding.

Co-directors of ICAM are David Pines and Arthur Ramirez of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Zachary Fisk, of Florida State University and Los Alamos, serves as chairman of the Board of Governors, while Nobel Laureate Robert Laughlin of Stanford University and Peter Wolynes of UC San Diego are co-chairs of the Science Steering Committee.

DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

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