Daan Frenkel is a world leader in the numerical simulation of chemical reactions to predict the properties of their products. He is renowned for explaining several phenomena related to phase transitions — changes of state — in ‘soft matter’ such as polymers, colloids and gels. Amongst many applications, Daan’s techniques can be used to help understand the behaviour of cell membranes, in order to advance medical science.
In living organisms, proteins perform a multitude of functions. In order to work out their structure, researchers grow ‘crystals’ from solutions of purified proteins. Daan’s simulations reveal promising new ways to make tiny holes in materials — ‘nanoscale pits’ — that enable the rapid growth of high-quality protein crystals.
Daan has been influential in fostering and promoting computer-based research. He is the co-author of Understanding Molecular Simulation (2001), a widely used handbook for computational physicists. Daan has received numerous awards, including the 2007 Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics of the American Physical Society, and the 2007 Alder–CECAM Prize of the European Physical Society.