VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) is hosting a physicist from Baylor University during the month of November.
Dr. Jeffrey Olafsen, associate professor of physics at Baylor University, will be working with Dr. Oliver Taylor, senior researcher, in GSL’s Soils Laboratory during his time in Vicksburg.
Olafsen is no stranger to the ERDC. Dr. Mihan McKenna-Taylor, senior scientist in the ERDC-GSL, has known him for more than 25 years and in 2019, Olafsen gave a lecture at the ERDC on granular physics.
“While at his lecture I asked if he would like to see one of the programs that I was doing on a related topic,” said Taylor. “Dr. Olafsen was fascinated by that work and wanted to collaborate to see if we could develop a granular physics model to explain what mechanics was unable to.”
Over the last two years, Taylor and Olafsen have collaborated on research that was able to combine Olafsen’s thermostatistical physics with the ERDC’s physical experimentation to look at more complex behaviors. The partnership has brought new breakthroughs in granular physics related to quantifying the difference in strength and stability from the micro- to the macro-scale, resulting in novel publications in conjunction with advancements for military engineering programs.
“I am excited that Dr. Olafsen will be at the ERDC-GSL, not just to push the boundaries of our understanding of granular physics but to provide a unique research perspective to the next generation of engineers and scientists here at the ERDC,” Taylor said.
Olafsen’s research is in the fields of nonlinear dynamics and non-equilibrium systems. His efforts are both interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary with collaborators from other university departments, as well as other universities and industries.
“I think what ultimately made Dr. Olafsen decide to do his sabbatical at the ERDC was our unique ability to perform physical experiments that nobody else is doing,” said Taylor. “These experiments defy conventional wisdom and propose unique challenges and new scientific directions in the field of granular matter.”
The Panama City, Florida native joined the Baylor faculty in 2006 after postdoctoral positions at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst working on thin films and at Georgetown University working on granular physics.
Additionally, Olafsen is devoted to mentoring college students in research and has published several journal articles with undergraduate authors.