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By combining the knowledge of scientists and engineers, physics and chemistry, and theory and experiment, polymeric materials can change from optimal properties or environmentally friendly to optimal properties and environmentally friendly.

Research profile

Stijn van Leuken is a PhD student at the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry. His research theoretically connects the microscopic and macroscopic properties of polyamides and other polymers. Polymers exist in many forms: from engineered materials to biological systems, from water-repellant to superabsorbent and from stiff to ductile. Moreover, the vast number of monomers to combine allows for broadly tunable properties in materials. For applications, we desire optimal features. But how do we know the effect of changing a monomer's chemical composition or position?

Without theory, the search for the optimal combination of polymers for an application requires many time-consuming experiments. Theory can be used to predict the optimal combination of polymers. As a result, these theories limit the needed number of experiments and improve the understanding of these polymers. The challenge is to develop theories that are at the same time widely applicable and realistic enough to be accurate. Moreover, they should stay simple enough so scientists and engineers can apply them without extensive study. Stijn works on this challenge by using his knowledge from his education in physics and collaborating with chemists and engineers. In this way, his research contributes to the goal of creating materials that are at the same time more environmentally friendly and have the desired mechanical properties.

Education and Teaching

Stijn van Leuken completed his bachelor’s in physics at Eindhoven University (with honors) in 2015. In his bachelor project, he studied the directionality of diffusion on curved surfaces in the 'Responsive Soft Matter' group at Eindhoven University. Afterward, he completed the physics master program in 'Bio/Nanoscience and Technology’ (with honors) and the master certificate program in 'Complex Molecular Systems.' During his master project, he studied DNA catch bonds.

During these bachelor and master programs, Stijn finished the 'Scientific Debate,' 'Big Data,' and 'Personal Leadership & Excellence for Science' honors programs, and cofounded the honors study association 'Confluente.' Before he started his Ph.D. program in February of 2019, he worked in four different research groups. He did nine months of theoretical work at the 'Theoretical Biophysics' group at Eindhoven University, four months of experimental work at the 'Biophysics group' at AMOLF and six months of experimental work at the 'Manoharan lab' and 'Wong lab' at Harvard University.

Education and Teaching


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