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Professor Daan Frenkel ForMemRS

Portrait of df246
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Lensfield Road
  • Cambridge CB2 1EW, UK
  • Tel.:
    • Research: +44(1223)336377
    • Head of Department: +44(1223)336341
  • email:


I explore the use of numerical simulations to predict the stability and rate of formation of self-assembling structures and materials.
Such studies are relevant for the design of novel materials and for the understanding of the physical properties existing self-assembled structures.

The main aspects of the research are

  • Develop novel Monte Carlo techniques to predict the thermodynamic stability of complex structures (e.g. DNA-coated colloids (fig 1) ).
  • Explore novel dynamical simulation techniques to predict the rate at which novel structures form from a meta-stable parent phase (e.g. crystal nucleation – fig 2).
  • Quantify the disorder in granular packings.

Fig.1. Snapshot of condensation of a low-density (left) to high-density (right) system of colloids (shown as red and green spheres) linked by DNA coils (shown as small spheres in left snapshot). 

Fig.2. Heterogeneous crystal nucleation on disordered substrates is facilitated by wetting and capillary condensation.


Daan Frenkel (1948)
2007-present: 1968 Professor of Theoretical Chemistry
2011-present: Head of the Department of Chemistry


1966 - 1977 University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL
Degrees: Masters degree Physical Chemistry, 1972 
PhD Physical Chemistry, 1977 

1977 - 1980 UCLA Los Angeles, CA, USA
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

1980 - 1981 Shell Research Amsterdam, NL
Research Scientist Department of Separation Technology.

1981 - 1986 Utrecht University Utrecht, NL
Universitair docent/hoofddocent (Lecturer/Reader) Department of Physics.

1987-2013 FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics Amsterdam, NL
Group Leader
Started computational-physics research line.

1987-2007 Utrecht University Utrecht, NL
Professor (part time)
Associated with the Van ‘t Hoff laboratory for Colloid Science.

1998-2013 University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, NL
Professor (part time)
Associated with the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Science.

2013: Member of the Academia Europaea
2013: Hinshelwood Lectures, Oxford University
2012: Robert Scott Lecture, University of Californian at Los Angeles.
2012: Elected Associate Fellow of TWAS – The World Academy of Sciences
2012: Spiers Memorial Award Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry
2011: Joseph E Hirschfelder Prize, U. Wisconsin at Madison (USA)
2011: Concurrent Professor, Nanjing University (China)
2011: Robert S. Mulliken Memorial Lecture, U. Chicago (USA)
2011: Fritz London Memorial Lecture, Duke University (USA)
2010: Pitzer Lecturer, U.C. Berkeley (USA) 2010: Soft Matter & Biophysical Chemistry Award of the Royal Society of Chemistry
2010: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK).
2008: Elected Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
2008: Awarded ERC Advanced grant.
2007: Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics of the American Physical Society
2007: Laughlin Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, Cornell University (USA)
2007: Honorary Doctorate, University of Edinburgh (UK)
2007: Berni Alder-CECAM prize of the European Physical Society.
2007: Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award
2006: Kivelson Memorial Lecture, Dept. of Chem. and Biochem., UCLA, (USA)
2006: Wohl Memorial Lecture, Dept. of Chem. Eng, U. Delaware (USA)
2006: Elected Foreign Member Royal Society (London).
2005: Honorary Professor, Beijing University of Chemical Technology (CN)
2004: Rothschild Professor, University of Cambridge (UK)
2002: Elected Member of the “Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschap-pen” (NL)
2002: First UCLA Distinguished Lecturer in Engineering (USA)
2000: NWO Spinoza Award (NL)
1999: Bourke lecturer & medalist, Royal Society of Chemistry (UK).
1999: James Franck Institute Distinguished Lecturer. U. Chicago (USA)
1999: Eli Burstein Lecture in Materials Science, U. Pennsylvania (USA)
1998: Elected member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (NL)

Daan Frenkel has published well over 400 papers.  His research focuses on molecular simulations in the area of soft and biological matter.
Together with Berend Smit, he wrote "Understanding Molecular Simulation". This book has been translated into Chinese and Russian.  


Gibbs, Boltzmann, and negative temperatures
D Frenkel, PB Warren – American Journal of Physics (2014) 83, 163
Communication: theoretical prediction of free-energy landscapes for complex self-assembly.
WM Jacobs, A Reinhardt, D Frenkel – J. Chem. Phys. (2015) 142, 021101
Lattice simulation method to model diffusion and NMR spectra in porous materials
C Merlet, AC Forse, JM Griffin, D Frenkel, CP Grey – The Journal of chemical physics (2014) 142, 094701
Order through entropy
D Frenkel – Nature materials (2014) 14, 9
Crucial role of nonspecific interactions in amyloid nucleation
A Šarić, YC Chebaro, TP Knowles, D Frenkel – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2014) 111, 17869
Optimizing the Selectivity of Surface-Adsorbing Multivalent Polymers
NB Tito, D Frenkel – Macromolecules (2014) 47, 7496
Superposition enhanced nested sampling
S Martiniani, JD Stevenson, DJ Wales, D Frenkel – Physical Review X (2014) 4, ARTN 031034
Phase separation in solutions with specific and nonspecific interactions.
WM Jacobs, DW Oxtoby, D Frenkel – The Journal of chemical physics (2014) 140, 204109
Effect of inert tails on the thermodynamics of DNA hybridization
L Di Michele, BM Mognetti, T Yanagishima, P Varilly, Z Ruff, D Frenkel, E Eiser – Journal of the American Chemical Society (2014) 136, 6538
Nanoparticle organization in sandwiched polymer brushes.
T Curk, FJ Martinez-Veracoechea, D Frenkel, J Dobnikar – Nano Lett (2014) 14, 2617
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Research Group

Research Interest Group

Telephone number

01223 336376
01223 336341

Email address