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Department of Chemistry

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


There are possibilities for postdoctoral appointments with Daan Frenkel at the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing involving research that will require prolonged stays in the Chemistry Department in Cambridge. For more information, contact Daan Frenkel (  



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)

2015-       :  Director of Research
2007-2015: 1968 Professor of Theoretical Chemistry
2011-2015: 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.


2016: Sir Eric Rideal Lecture of the SCI/RSC.
2016: Elected Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)
2016: Boltzmann Medal (IUPAP)  
2015: Bakhuis-Roozeboom medal - Netherlands Academy of Sciences
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)
1998: Regents lecturer. University of California at Los Angeles (USA). 
1997: Lennard-Jones lecture of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK). 
1997: Physica lecture and Prize of the Dutch Physical Society. 
1984: Visiting lecturer at the K.U. Leuven (Belgium) 
1975: Shell graduate-student travel award
1969: Unilever Undergraduate Chemistry award. 





Daan Frenkel has published some 450 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.  


Special Issue on Liquid Matter 2017.
D Frenkel
– Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter
Addressing hysteresis and slow equilibration issues in cavity-based calculation of chemical potentials.
CR Wand, TS Totton, D Frenkel
– The Journal of chemical physics
Theoretical Prediction of Thermal Polarization.
P Wirnsberger, C Dellago, D Frenkel, A Reinhardt
– Phys Rev Lett
Pressure gradients fail to predict diffusio-osmosis.
Y Liu, R Ganti, D Frenkel
– Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter
Controlling Cargo Trafficking in Multicomponent Membranes.
T Curk, P Wirnsberger, J Dobnikar, D Frenkel, A Šarić
– Nano Lett
A unified description of colloidal thermophoresis
J Burelbach, D Frenkel, I Pagonabarraga, E Eiser
– European Physical Journal E
A unified description of colloidal thermophoresis
J Burelbach, D Frenkel, I Pagonabarrag, E Eiser
– The European Physical Journal E
What experiments on pinned nano-bubbles can tell about the critical nucleus for bubble nucleation
Q Xiao, Y Liu, Z Guo, Z Liu, D Frenkel, J Dobnikar, X Zhang
– European Physical Journal E
When droplets become stars: charged dielectric droplets beyond the Rayleigh limit.
MI Oh, A Malevanets, M Paliy, D Frenkel, S Consta
– Soft Matter
Microscopic Marangoni Flows Cannot Be Predicted on the Basis of Pressure Gradients.
Y Liu, R Ganti, HGA Burton, X Zhang, W Wang, D Frenkel
– Phys Rev Lett
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