I am a scientist interested in the physics of living tissues and soft matter. Geometry and topology often provide a powerful lens for understanding the mechanisms governing material behavior. I apply this lens to understand the behavior of living as well as soft materials such as thin elastic sheets, cytoskeletal gels, and mechanical metamaterials. I am currently most interested in how biology uses physics to sculpt complex forms during morphogenesis.
I recently joined the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara as a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation fellow. My PhD work at the University of Chicago revealed that amorphous structures can support topologically insulating phases of matter, explored how curvature controls the energetics and paths of cracks in thin sheets, explained fracture patterns in nanoparticle sheets stamped on corrugated substrates, and related findings. In my undergraduate years, I studied how fluid flows affect the evolution of dwarf galaxies.
N. P. Mitchell, L. M. Nash, D. Hexner, A. M. Turner, W. T. M. Irvine. “Amorphous topological insulators constructed from random point sets.” Nature Physics 14, 380–385 (2018) [link]
N. P. Mitchell, V. Koning, V. Vitelli, W. T. M. Irvine, “Fracture in sheets draped on curved surfaces.” Nature Materials 16, 89-93 (2017) [link]
N. P. Mitchell, R. Carey, J. Hannah, Y. Wang, M. Cortes, S. McBride, H. Jaeger. “Conforming nanoparticle sheets to surfaces with Gaussian curvature.” Soft Matter, 14, 9107 – 9117 (2018) [link]
N. P. Mitchell, L. M. Nash, W. T. M. Irvine. “Realization of a topological phase transition in gyroscopic lattices.” Physical Review B 97, 100302(R) (2018) [link]