Harris earns CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation

The early-career grant will help Daniel Harris establish a more complete and unified physical understanding of particles at interfaces, and share new experimental designs and methods that others can accessibly adapt for use in related research.

Daniel HarrisDaniel Harris, an assistant professor of engineering at Brown University, has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development grant from the National Science Foundation. 

The CAREER program is the federal agency’s most prestigious honor in support of early-career faculty and will provide Harris with $570,000 over a five-year period. The aim is to support early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. 

At Brown, Harris leads a research team that explores fluid mechanics and soft matter using experimental and mathematical modeling techniques. The work has ranged from efforts such as developing new tools to help researchers better understand the movements of microorganisms, helping directly measure the forces that cause small objects to cluster together on the surface of a liquid — a phenomenon known as the “Cheerios effect” — to efforts providing new an understanding on how partially submerged objects experience drag and investigating forces during water entry.

“Our lab focuses on fluid mechanics with specific attention to interfacial phenomena.  Our experimental work is primarily centered around custom tabletop experiments, so we do a lot of design and prototyping whenever we work to address a new research question,” Harris said. “ As a very hands-on and visual person, I am drawn to these types of experiments that can be easily handled and visualized with still and high-speed photography.”

The lab also explores connections between art, craft and science while also conducting public outreach efforts. Last year, he led teams that won a video competition and a poster competition at meetings of the American Physical Society. 

“Over the past several years our lab has coordinated a School-wide ‘Engineering Day’ as part of ICERM’s Girls Get Math program. We also routinely run local hands-on STEAM workshops in the community – most recently for the Community Libraries of Providence and Youth Pride Inc.,” he said. “Engaging with the public is a great way to communicate our results and the importance of science and engineering more generally. In particular, working with youth has been a great pleasure, as such young students have nearly unrestricted curiosity and creativity.” 

Harris will use funding from this grant to continue to expand his work integrating experimental and theoretical research on the motion of solid particles at a fluid interface, while working closely with education and outreach activities including introducing undergraduate research experiences into the engineering curriculum and continuing hands-on workshops in partnership with local camps and public libraries.

Harris joins a group of seven Brown Engineering faculty who have been awarded grants as part of the CAREER program in the last ten years, including Nora Ayanian (2016), Kareen Coulombe (2021), Franklin Goldsmith (2016), David Henann (2016), Andrew Peterson (2016), and Anita Shukla (2020).