Public Release: 

UC Riverside to play active role in Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter

University of California - Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif., August 6, 2002 -- The University of California and a group of sister institutions recently announced the creation of the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter (ICAM) as an international, multicampus organization exploring the frontiers of science. UC Riverside is one of the founding branches of ICAM. The institute will be led by Los Alamos National Laboratory.

As an "institute without walls," ICAM will promote transdisciplinary collaborations between physical, chemical, and biological scientists around the world. It seeks to foster multidisciplinary endeavors where there is a two-way transfer of ideology and techniques. Topics for study will range from the mysteries of "mad cow" disease to self-assembling materials.

ICAM was conceived at a workshop at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in December, 1998, and became an independent unit of the University of California in March, 1999, before evolving to its present international form. Starting July 1, 2002, ICAM became a Multicampus Research Program (MRP) in the UC system. Unlike most other UC MRPs, non-UC campuses can also join ICAM.

The university's ex-Chancellor Raymond Orbach and Douglas MacLaughlin, professor of physics, participated in the initial formation of ICAM. Ward Beyermann, associate professor of physics at UC Riverside, is on the Board of Governors for a term of three years. Prof. Robert Haddon of the departments of chemistry and chemical engineering at the university is a member of ICAM's Science Steering Committee.

Some of the areas of research already explored at ICAM workshops include the organizing principles that may be responsible for the folding of proteins and their association with illnesses such as Alzheimer's; the measurement and understanding of emergent behavior in high temperature superconductors; the emerging field of biological physics; and the development of measuring systems on the nanometer (one billionth of a meter) length scale.

"The goal of ICAM is to catalyze research on the organizing concepts responsible for emergent behavior in many different forms of matter," said Beyermann. "This includes all biological matter as well as a number of interesting inanimate materials such as high-temperature superconductors."

Beyermann explained that ICAM's present scientific agenda is dominated by two thrusts: strongly correlated matter and biological physics. Active research areas in which UC Riverside will be directly involved include:

  1. Systems where the quantum nature manifests itself on a large scale.
  2. Understanding the electronic and physical properties of DNA.
  3. Studying metal atoms with strong electron correlations in solids, molecules, biological systems, and the environment.
  4. Glassy phenomena and intrinsic inhomogeneities in biomolecules and correlated electron materials.

"As an umbrella organization to the research networks, ICAM will develop outreach programs, both for the general public and for K-12," said Beyermann. "It will assist the research networks in obtaining funding, organize and sponsor conferences and workshops in topics aligned with the ICAM philosophy, and support programs that encourage young scientists to work at the interface between disciplines where great discoveries are sometimes made. As a result of these emphases, ICAM could significantly impact graduate and post-doctoral training at UC Riverside."


The University of California, Riverside offers undergraduate and graduate education to nearly 15,000 students and has a projected enrollment of 21,000 students by 2010. It is the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse campus of the preeminent ten-campus University of California system, the largest public research university system in the world. The picturesque 1,200-acre campus is located at the foot of the Box Springs Mountains near downtown Riverside in Southern California. More information about UC Riverside is available at or by calling 909-787-5185.

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