University of California, Riverside

UCR Newsroom

UC Riverside is founding member of Inst. for Complex Adaptive Matter

UC Riverside is founding member of Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter

(August 6, 2002)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- 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. (At length scales comparable to the size of an atom, the properties of matter take on very unusual wave-like qualities. This is referred to as the quantum nature of atoms. Occasionally, systems are found where the quantum behavior is manifest over much larger length scales, and in these systems, it is possible to exploit the unusual quantum properties to do new things.)

  3. Understanding the electronic and physical properties of DNA.

  4. Studying metal atoms with strong electron correlations in solids,
    molecules, biological systems, and the environment.

  5. Glassy phenomena and intrinsic inhomogeneities in biomolecules and correlated electron materials.

  6. (Many scientific theories make use of the simplifying fact that the system is very symmetric or well ordered. However, much of the physical and most of the biological world is not like this; in fact it is very inhomogeneous. The goal is to find more sophisticated models for these systems that are so common in nature.)
"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.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Media Relations
900 University Avenue
1156 Hinderaker Hall
Riverside, CA 92521

Tel: (951) 827-6397 (951) UCR-NEWS
Fax: (951) 827-5008

Related Links