Monica Olvera de la Cruz

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Monica Olvera de la Cruz
Born Mexico City
Fields physics
Institutions Northwestern University
Alma mater UNAM
Trinity College, University of Cambridge
Doctoral advisor Sir Sam Edwards
Known for soft matter physics
Notable awards David and Lucile Packard Foundation fellowship (1989)
Presidential Young Investigator Award (1990)
National Academy of Sciences Cozzarelli Prize (2007)
National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (2010)
Miller Institute Visiting Professor (2015-16)
American Physical Society Polymer Physics Prize (2017)
Monica Olvera de la Cruz (2010)

Monica Olvera de la Cruz is a soft-matter theorist, the Lawyer Taylor Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University.


Olvera de la Cruz obtained her B.A. in Physics from the UNAM, Mexico, in 1981, and her Ph.D. in Physics from Cambridge University, UK, in 1985. Olvera de la Cruz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences[1] and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the American Physical Society.

She directed the Northwestern Materials Research Center[2] from 2006–2013, which she grew in research, funding level[3][4] and education, and expanded it to impact society beyond science and engineering by facilitating development of visionary outreach programs in the arts such as The Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS), which was established by Francesca Casadio and Katherine T. Faber. Olvera de la Cruz currently serves as the Co-Director of NU-ACCESS alongside Francesca Casadio. She is also the Director of the Center for Computation and Theory of Soft Materials (CCTSM), and Co-Director of the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES) at Northwestern University.

Olvera de la Cruz founded the alliance of the Northwestern MRSEC with the University of San Antonio PREM.[5]


Olvera de la Cruz has developed novel methods to analyze complex systems, and in particular molecular electrolytes. She explained the limitations associated with separating long DNA chains via gel electrophoresis dynamics,[6][7][8] which was of great importance to the Human Genome Project.

She has described the emergence of shape and patterns in membranes and in multicomponent complex mixtures. She and her students and postdocs discovered that electrostatics leads to spontaneous symmetry breaking in ionic membranes such as viral capsids[9] (for which they were awarded the 2007 Cozarelli Prize),[10] and in fibers.[11][12]

They also demonstrated the spontaneous emergence of various regular and irregular polyhedral geometries in closed membranes with non-homogeneous elastic properties such as bacterial microcompartments, including carboxysomes,[13] via a mechanism that explains observed shapes in crystalline shells formed by more than one component such as archaea and organelle wall envelopes as well as in ionic vesicles.[14]

Awards and significant honors[edit]

Policy and public service[edit]

Olvera de la Cruz currently serves on the US Department of Energy's Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, and the United States National Research Council. She has participated in many other committees including the National Research Council Board of Physics and Astronomy (2010-2015), Committee on Societal Benefits from Condensed Matter and Materials Research, Research at the Intersection of Physical and Life Sciences (RIPLS), the Solid State Science Committee and the Committee on Key Challenge Areas for Convergence and Health; from 2010-12 she chaired the Condensed Matter and Materials Research Committee. From 2005 to 2009 she was in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate Advisory Committee of the National Science Foundation, and chaired the Division of Materials Research Advisory Committee.

Personal life[edit]

Olvera de la Cruz and her husband Michael J. Bedzyk have a daughter, Ana Jimena Pavlovitch-Bedzyk.


  1. ^ "Monica Olvera de la Cruz". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  2. ^ "Northwestern University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC)". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  3. ^ "NSF Award Search: Award#0520513 - MRSEC: Multifunctional Nanoscale Material Structures". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  4. ^ "NSF Award Search: Award#1121262 - CEMRI: Multifunctional Nanoscale Material Structures". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  5. ^ "Utsa Prem". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  6. ^ "Olvera De La Cruz, M.; Deutsch, J.M.; Edwards, S.F., "Electrophoresis in Strong Fields" Phys. Rev. A 33 (3), P20472055 (1986)". 
  7. ^ Gel electrophoresis
  8. ^ "Maddox, John, "Understanding Gel Electrophoresis" Nature 345, 381 - 381, 1990". 
  9. ^ Graziano Vernizzi * and Monica Olvera de la Cruz * , † , ‡. "Faceting ionic shells into icosahedra via electrostatics". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104: 18382–18386. doi:10.1073/pnas.0703431104. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Cozzarelli Prize". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  11. ^ "Kohlstedt et al., "Spontaneous Chirality via Long-Range Electrostatic Forces", Phys. Rev Lett. 99, 030602 (2007)". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  12. ^ "Solis, Vernizzi and Olvera de la Cruz, "Electrostatic driven pattern formation in fibers, nanotubes and pores" Soft Matter 7, 1456 - 1466, 2011". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  13. ^ "Platonic and Archimedean geometries in multicomponent elastic membranes". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108: 4292–4296. 2011-02-28. doi:10.1073/pnas.1012872108. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  14. ^ "Leung et al., "Molecular Crystallization Controlled by pH Regulates Mesoscopic Membrane Morphology" ACS Nano 6, 10901-10909(2012)". ACS Nano. 6: 10901–10909. 2012-11-27. doi:10.1021/nn304321w. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  15. ^ "News Release: DOD Names 2010 National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows". 2009-03-12. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  16. ^ "NSF Award Search: Award#9057764 - Presidential Young Investigator Award". Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  17. ^ "Monica Olvera de la Cruz « Packard Foundation". Retrieved 2013-10-18.