Mo Li

Li honored for a lifetime of research in theory and computation of disordered materials

Mo Li, professor of School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech, has received the Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The award honors internationally leading researchers in recognition of their entire academic record to date.

The Humboldt recipients are academics whose fundamental discoveries, theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own disciplines and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.

Li’s research focuses on theory and computation of disordered materials — such as glass and liquid — with an emphasis on understanding the underlying atomic structures and their relations to properties. These materials are known for the lack of long-range order, making it extremely difficult, if not possible, to determine the exact atomic structures experimentally. The missing connection between the structure and property has challenged scientists for decades.

Using computational and theoretical approaches, Li’s research is directed towards the fundamental understanding of the mechanisms, process, and structures of the materials. He has made many contributions in the topics of glass transitions, deformation localization in glassy materials, thermodynamic and statistical physics models for metastable systems and their phase transitions, and algorithm development for computations.

“Besides the honor and recognition, for which I am very grateful, the Humboldt Research Award brings a tremendous opportunity for international collaboration of basic research through the financial support and also the Humboldt network.” Li said. "The fundamental understanding enables us to carry out new experiment and computation that could lead to development of new materials that have not been possible for disordered or amorphous materials.”

In addition to the honor, the Foundation also provides financial support for Li to foster and carry out creative collaborative research in Germany. Li will work closely with colleagues in two world-class institutions in Germany: Prof. Robert Maaß at Bundesanstalt fuer Materialforschung und -pruefung (BAM) in Berlin and Prof. Jörg Weissmüller at Hamburg University of Technology in Hamburg.

They will work on how new design of microstructures in disordered materials could bring revolutionary changes to the physical and mechanical properties and how length scale and geometric and topological shapes influence the surface and interface properties of this class of materials.