Core Faculty

Monica Olvera de la Cruz

Lawyer Taylor Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering

2220 Campus Drive

Cook Hall 2036

Evanston, IL 60208

m-olvera( at )


Ph.D. Physics, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England

B.A. Physics, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, Mexico

Research Interests

Multicomponent mixtures of complex molecules have competing interactions of different length scales which can be used to design a large variety of assemblies with important technological and biomedical applications. We analyze co-assemblies of cationic and anionic biological and synthetic molecules and their stability in different ionic media by using a combination of liquid theory and solid state physics techniques. The association of chemically incompatible charged molecules often results in surface charge heterogeneities which lead to hierarchical organizations via charge polarizability. Surface composition heterogeneities are a result of the competition of electrostatic interactions, which favor mixing of opposite charges, and specific interactions and packing constraints which favor segregation of the components.

We analyze the physical properties of mixtures of cationic and anionic amphiphiles co-assembled into lipid membranes, vesicles and cylindrical micelles. We also analyze surface patterns induced by the adsorption or confinement of self-attracting charged biomolecules onto oppositely charged flat and curved surfaces, such as cationic proteins onto actin, and determine the attraction mechanism among surfaces with charge heterogeneities.

We also investigate the thermodynamics, statistics and dynamics of multicomponent complex fluids. In particular, we analyze immiscible molecular fluids including interface adsorption of minority components and phase segregation kinetics. In solutions containing copolymers, for example, the interface adsorption is enhanced and a large variety of structures with unique applications including inverted micelles for drug delivery are obtained.

Significant Recognition

  • National Institutes of Health FIRST Award, 1988–93
  • David and Lucille Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, 1989–94
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, 1990–92
  • NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, 1990–95
  • Fellow of the American Physical Society, 2001
  • Engineering and Applied Sciences Cozzarelli Prize, Proceeding of the National Academies, National Academies, 2007
  • 2010 American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow
  • 2010-2015 National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship
  • 2012 Elected member of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2013 Distinguished Lecturer, Mathematical Physical Sciences Directorate, National Science Foundation

Significant Professional Service

  • Scientific Member, Commissariat a l’Énergie Atomique (CE-SACLAY), 1995-97
  • NSF Opportunities in Materials Theory, speaker, 2000
  • Scientific Visitor, Service de Physique Théorique, CE-SACLAY, France, 2003
  • NSF Role of Theory in Biological Physics and Materials, organizer & speaker, 2004
  • Baetjer Lecturer, Princeton University, 2005
  • Editorial Board of the Journal of Polymer Science B: Polymer Physics, 2000-06
  • Advisory Committee, NSF Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, 2005-09
  • Solid State Science Committee, National Research Council, 2006-09
  • Research at the Intersection of Physical and Life Sciences Committee, National Research Council, National Academies, 2007-09
  • Editorial Board of Macromolecules
  • Vice-chair Solid Sate Science Committee, National Research Council, 2008-10
  • Chair, Advisory Committee, NSF Division of Materials Research, 2007-09
  • Member, National Research Council Board of Physics and Astronomy
  • Chair, Condensed Matter and Materials Research Committee, National Research Council, 2010-12
  • Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, Department of Energy, 2013-2015

Selected Publications

    Longo, Gabriel S.;  Olvera De La Cruz, Monica; Szleifer, Igal, “PH-controlled nanoaggregation in amphiphilic polymer co-networks”, ACS Nano, (2013)

    Jadhao, Vikram; Solis, Francisco J.; Olvera De La Cruz, Monica, “A variational formulation of electrostatics in a medium with spatially varying dielectric permittivity”, Journal of Chemical Physics, (2013)

    Guerrero-Garcia, Guillermo I.; Olvera De La Cruz, Monica, “Inversion of the electric field at the electrified liquid-liquid interface”, Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, (2013)

    Qiao, Bao Fu; Olvera De La Cruz, Monica, “Driving force for crystallization of anionic lipid membranes revealed by atomistic simulations”, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, (2013)

    Patala, Srikanth; Marks, Laurence D.; Olvera De La Cruz, Monica, “Elastic strain energy effects in faceted decahedral nanoparticles”, Journal of Physical Chemistry C, (2013)

    Kohlstedt, Kevin L.; Olvera De La Cruz, Monica; Schatz, George C., “Controlling orientational order in 1-D assemblies of multivalent triangular prisms”, Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, (2013)

    Jackson, Nicholas E.; Savoie, Brett M.; Kohlstedt, Kevin L.; Olvera De La Cruz, Monica; Schatz, George C.; Chen, Lin X.; Ratner, Mark A., “Controlling conformations of conjugated polymers and small molecules: The role of nonbonding interactions”, Journal of the American Chemical Society, (2013)

    Li, Ting I. N. G.; Sknepnek, Rastko; Olvera De La Cruz, Monica, “Thermally active hybridization drives the crystallization of DNA-functionalized nanoparticles”, Journal of the American Chemical Society, (2013)

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