Professor Widom's research focuses on theoretical modeling of novel materials in condensed matter and biological physics settings. Methods of statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics and computer simulation are used to investigate structure, stability and properties of these materials.
Metals in noncrystalline (nonperiodic) structures are a major focus of effort, including: Liquid metals, for example the liquid-liquid transition in supercooled silicon); Metallic glass es, which are multi-component alloys that freeze into a solid while maintaining a liquid-like structure; Quasicrystals, which are partially ordered and highly symmetric structures that are spatially quasiperiodic. These problems are addressed using first-principles total energy calculation coupled with statistical mechanics to model entire ensembles of probable structures.
Biological physics is the second major focus, including two specific projects. Virus capsids are highly symmetric protein shells that protect the viral genome. Methods of continuum mechanics and symmetry analysis are applied to identify soft modes of deformation. The RNA molecule plays many roles at the heart of gene expression, some of which such as microRNAs and riboswitches have only recently been discovered. A characteristic feature of RNA is its highly convoluted secondary structure, which are analyzed from both thermodynamic and kinetic points of view.
- "Quasicrystal equilibrium state," Michael Widom, Katherine J. Strandburg, and Robert H. Swendsen, Phys. Rev. Lett. 58, 706 (1987)
- "Transfer-matrix analysis of a two-dimensional quasicrystal," M. Widom, D. P. Deng, and C. L. Henley, Phys. Rev. Lett. 63, 310 (1989)
- "Ductility improvement of amorphous steels: Roles of shear modulus and electronic structure," X.J. Gu, S. Joseph Poon, Gary J. Shiflet, Michael Widom, Acta Materialia 56, 88 (2008)
- "Symmetry, Landau theory and polytope models of glass," David R. Nelson, Michael Widom, Nuclear Physics B 240, 113 (1984)
- "Radial fingering in a Hele-Shaw cell: a weakly nonlinear analysis," José A. Miranda, Michael Widom, Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena 120, 315 (1998)
- "Phase diagram of boron carbide with variable carbon composition," Sanxi Yao, Qin Gao, and Michael Widom, Phys. Rev. B 95, 054101 (2017)
- "Characterization of hexagonal boron nitride layers on nickel surfaces by low-energy electron microscopy," P. C. Mende, Q. Gao, A. Ismach, H. Chou, M. Widom, R. Ruoff, L. Colombo, R. M. Feenstra, Surface Science 659, 31 (2017)
- "Surface and grain boundary complexions in transition metal – Bismuth alloys," Qin Gao, Michael Widom, Current Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science 20, 240 (2016)
- "Frequency Estimate for Multicomponent Crystalline Compounds," M. Widom, J Stat Phys (2016)
- "Predicted phase diagram of boron-carbon-nitrogen," Hantao Zhang, Sanxi Yao, and Michael Widom, Phys. Rev. B 93, 144107 (2016)