Prof. Dr. Stefan Luding

Stefan Luding: bridging the gap between disciplines

If someone would have to describe the work of – or the person – Stefan Luding, using just one word, it would be multidisciplinarity. ‘I never wanted to be fixed to just one discipline’, he says. ‘I really just like to immerse myself in a lot of different things. Over the years, I’ve learned that I can learn so much more from other people from other fields. This broad interest does come with its challenges. When I was younger and had to choose what to study, I couldn’t make up my mind between mathematics, informatics, cybernetics, aerospace engineering or physics.’

He chose the latter, and,  ever since Luding arrived at the UT, in 2007, as Professor of Multiscale Mechanics, he chose to pursue his path to combine multiple disciplines: the micromechanics and physics of granular matter, particles in the kitchen, composite materials, solids and fluids, and in particular the co-existence of solid- and fluid-like behaviour in his beloved granular matter.

Especially the co-existence item is what Luding calls a personal challenge. ‘Think of landslides; how a solid foundation becomes fluid and runs down a mountain, or how rain penetrates into the soil, or how sand on the beach is solid when you walk on it, but fluid when you take it in your hand and start pouring it…’ Back when Luding was finishing his PhD in granular matter, his father asked him jokingly why he was still playing with sand. ‘Now, three decades later, I am still playing with sand. It all comes down to the micro-mechanics, to the interaction of particles.’

Those disciplines all come to life in everyday examples, Luding explains. ‘How does sugar dissolve in your coffee? Or when you open a box of cereal, why are the big pieces are always on top? These are phenomena you can experience every day. And there are many more, with a wide variety of research questions to still ask. With so many applications around, and with so many open questions, I think I never had or will have any trouble coming up with a new research idea.’ Still, Luding knows what his research group does best. ‘Our goal is to bridge the gap between the fundamental science and possible applications. And the same applies to disciplines; I am here to connect them.’

Research and education

Since the UT has a strong focus on students working in projects, Luding has also found a clear vision for himself when it comes to education. ‘In projects, students are working in teams on a variety of applications. They can and will fly in directions you would never have expected. In teaching, I hope to help the students by sharing the raw, fundamental facts, the basics. I hope to teach students the fundamental principles, so they can apply them in their projects without losing ground, not to build on sand, and not to fly too high without care.’

When it comes to research-management, Luding calls the journal ‘Granular Matter’ his ‘baby’. He (co-)founded this journal in 1998 and has been editor-in-chief ever since. ‘Now, 24 years later, it has grown up. What hasn’t changed since the beginning is its multidisciplinary orientation. We always wanted the journal to be accessible and understandable for researchers across various disciplines.’

About Stefan Luding

Stefan Luding is Professor of Multiscale Mechanics at the University of Twente since 2007. He studied physics at Bayreuth, Germany and did his PhD on the simulations of dry granular materials in the group of Professor A. Blumen in Freiburg, Germany, 1991-1994. He spent his post-doctorate time in Paris, Jussieu, with Profs. E. Clement and J. Duran, before he joined the Computational Physics group in Stuttgart, Germany, with Professor H. J. Herrmann in 1995. He moved to the Netherlands, to the TU Delft in 2001, and since 2007 chairs the group Multiscale Mechanics (MSM) at the Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET) at the University of Twente.

His research expertise covers several areas in granular matter, non-Newtonian flow rheology, non-linear solid mechanics, particle interactions on the smallest scale, cohesive fine powders in process engineering, asphalt or concrete in civil engineering, composites, bio-/micro-fluid systems, self-healing materials, and most of all on the fundamentals of the so-called (multi-scale) micro-macro transition methods.

Since 1998, Luding is Managing Editor-in-Chief of the journal Granular Matter. He has published almost 300 papers, proceedings and books in total. Luding is also member of several international working parties related to granular materials and powders, as well as president (since 2005) of the association that every four years organizes the (multidisciplinary) major conference in the field: Powders & Grains – bringing together experts from mechanics, physics, particle technology, engineering etcetera – bridging the gap between disciplines.

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