Irving R. Epstein is the Henry F. Fischbach Professor of Chemistry and former dean of arts and sciences and provost at Brandeis University. He studies complex behavior in chemically reacting systems, focusing on chemical oscillation, pattern formation, chaos, the transformation of chemical into mechanical energy, and the behavior of complex networks. He has pioneered the use of mechanistic approaches to design chemical systems that exhibit desired, often biomimetic, phenomena.
During his Radcliffe fellowship, he will study the behavior of systems that exhibit cross-diffusion, whereby gradients in the concentration of one species give rise to fluxes of another species. This phenomenon, to date largely ignored by chemists and physicists, may play an important role in the formation of patterns in chemical, biological, ecological, and even social systems. Epstein seeks to develop intuitive and quantitative approaches for understanding how cross-diffusion can generate patterns in space and time and to use insights gained in the study of chemical systems to shed light on mechanisms of pattern formation in other systems.
Epstein earned a BA in chemistry and physics, an MA in chemistry, and a PhD in chemical physics from Harvard University and a diploma in advanced mathematics as a Marshall Scholar at the University of Oxford. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. In 2006, he was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. Epstein chairs the board of directors of the New England Complex Systems Institute and is an honorary professor at the China University of Mining and Technology. He is the founder of the Science Posse, an initiative to increase the recruitment, retention, and success of underrepresented groups in the sciences.