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Serge Nakhmanson describes himself as a 'digital alchemist.' A former scientist with the Argonne National Laboratory, he specializes in the computer-based design and discovery of advanced multifunctional materials.

Nakhmanson spends countless hours in his research lab painstakingly tweaking the identities of individual atoms and altering their chemical bindings in an attempt to assemble new material templates that have superior physical or chemical behaviors. Those virtual materials may exhibit enhanced electrical conductivity or mechanical toughness. Or, in some cases, an entirely new material may be created that performs differently from anything else known to exist.

"I consider myself a digital alchemist," says Nakhmanson, who joined UConn's School of Engineering as a full-time associate professor last August. "We are trying to design new materials on the computer and we want to do this in some rational fashion. That is, as opposed to an Edisonian approach, where you're baking random compounds in 100 different ovens in the hope that something interesting serendipitously comes out of one of them."

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