Helen Ansell (email) is a fourth year physics PhD student in Randy Kamien's group at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her MSci in Theoretical Physics from the University of Birmingham, UK. Her research involves using a combination of analytical and numerical techniques to understand the interplay between geometric confinement and the preferred arrangement of ordered soft matter systems. In her PhD research, her two main areas of focus have been understanding the twisting behavior of chiral twisted spindle-shaped liquid crystal polymer microparticles, and the phyllotactic lattice ground states of vortices in a type-II superconductor confined to a surface of revolution. Helen is co-leader of the graduate student led group Diversity and Inclusion in Physics at Penn, which aims to make the physics community more welcoming and inclusive for all members.

Talk details: Threading the spindle: a geometric study of chiral liquid crystal polymer microparticles
Polymeric particles are strong candidates for designing artificial materials capable of emulating the complex twisting-based functionality observed in biological systems. Twisted spindle-shaped polymer microparticles can be formed via the anisotropic deswelling of spherical bipolar liquid crystal polymer microparticles. I will discuss our investigation of the twisting behavior of these spindle-shaped particles and will describe a geometric model which captures its key features.