Charles E. Sing

Charles E. Sing
Charles E. Sing

Charles E. Sing

Assistant Professor
Materials Science and Engineering
  • Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
107 Roger Adams Laboratory MC 712
600 S. Mathews
Urbana Illinois 61801
(217) 244-6671

For more information


Charles E. Sing is Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Dr. Sing’s background is in charged polymers, polymer dynamics, and biophysics. His research group seeks to use coarse-grained models to understand the emergent physics of polymer or biophysical systems, and then use the resulting insights to guide the design new materials. Current research efforts are focused on problems that are challenging because they span large length and time scales, and new theory or simulation methods are necessary to yield new fundamental physical principles. Dr. Sing has been recognized with a number of honors, including the Forbes 30 under 30 in Science in 2015 and MIT’s DMSE Best PhD Thesis Award. He received his BSE/MS from Case Western Reserve University and his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Sing’s postdoctoral work was at Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology. He joined the department in 2014.

Academic and Scientific Experience


  • Postdoctorate, Northwestern University, 2012-2014
  • Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012
  • M.S., Case Western Reserve University, 2008
  • B.S.E., Case Western Reserve University, 2008

Courses Taught

  • CHBE 321 - Thermodynamics
  • CHBE 525 - Stat Thermo Chem Eng
  • CHBE 594 - Special Topics
  • CHBE 594 - Statistical Thermodynamics

Research Statement

Our research aims to use a combination of theory and computer simulation to understand the physical properties of polymeric materials. We use a diverse array of tools with a focus on statistical mechanics and coarse-grained modeling.

Biologically-inspired Theory for Polymer Design

An abundance of biological materials such as mucin, von Willebrand Factor, and chromatin are known to display interesting physics on disparate time and length scales. We aspire to articulate these physical behaviors found in biological systems and subsequently use our theoretical insight to develop designed molecular systems with novel properties. Specifically, we are pursuing investigations into elasticity and electrostatics in protein-protein interactions and DNA-protein binding, and the subsequent application of these effects to designed materials that exhibit molecular biomimetic properties such as artificial allostery and ion-specific stimuli response.

Driven Polymer Conformations

Polymer structure and morphology have a rich array of tunable behavior. Tools such as precise chemistry and physical intuition have guided the manipulation of these materials to new levels of complexity. Likewise, advances in kinetically-driven systems using flows and fields provide an orthogonal way to tune systems. We desire further advances in dictating the behavior of materials desired for applications such as molecular organic electronics and patterned substrates, and understanding the kinetic evolution of complex polymer systems. Our research is investigating possibilities that judicious and minimal sequence design coupled with driving fields and flows may provide greater ability to explore the conformational and structural aspects of polymeric systems. New theoretical and conceptual understandings that specifically take into account polymer structure and chemistry will allow the manipulation of polymers due to the interplay between macroscopic controls and molecular-level features.

Charged Polymer Materials

We are interested in a variety of charged polymer materials, including complex coacervates, polymers in ionic liquids, and melt polyelectrolytes. In particular, we are using a combination of simulation and theory to address challenges such as how effects such as charge correlations, molecular shape, polymer monomer sequence, high charge densities, and chain architecture dictate macroscopic material properties. Our work aspires to reveal new ways to manipulate and tune materials using charges. We are pioneering new ways to use polymers and charges to develop materials capable of emulating biology and relevant to applications ranging from advanced stimuli-responsive systems to materials for energy applications.

Research Interests

  • Polymer Physics, Statistical Mechanics, and Computer Simulation

Selected Articles in Journals

  • Perry, S.L.; Sing, C.E. "PRISM-based Theory of Complex Coacervation: Excluded Volume versus Chain Correlation." Macromolecules 2015 48 5040-5053.
  • Sing, C.E.; Zwanikken, J.W.; Olvera de la Cruz, M. "Theory of melt polyelectrolyte blends and block copolymers: Phase behavior, surface tension, and microphase periodicity." J. Chem. Phys. 2015 14 034902.
  • Sing, C.E.; Olvera de la Cruz, M. "Polyelectrolyte blends and non-trivial behavior in effective Flory-Huggins parameters." ACS Macro Lett. 20143 698-702.
  • Sing, C.E.; Zwanikken, J.W.; Olvera de la Cruz, M.; "Electrostatic control of block copolymer morphology." Nat. Mater. 2014 13 694-698.
  • Mai, D.J.; Marciel, A.B.; Sing, C.E.; Schroeder, C.M. "Topology-Controlled Relaxation Dynamics of Single Branched Polymers." ACS Macro Lett. 2015 4 446-452.
  • Sing, C.E.; Olvera de la Cruz, M.; Marko, J.F. "Multiple-binding-site mechanism explains concentration-dependent unbinding rates of DNA-binding proteins." Nuc. Acids Res. 2013 42 3783-3791.
  • Sing, C.E.; Zwanikken, J.W.; Olvera de la Cruz, M.; "Interfacial behavior in polyelectrolyte blends: hybrid liquid-state integral equation and self-consistent field theory study." Phys. Rev. Lett. 2013 111 168303.
  • Sing, C.E.; Zwanikken, J.W.; Olvera de la Cruz, M.; "Correlation-induced phase separation in polyelectrolyte blends." ACS Macro Letters. 2013 2 1042-1046.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; "Von Willlebrand Adhesion to Surfaces at High Shear Rates is Controlled by Long-Lived Bonds." Biophys. J. 2013 105,1475-1481.
  • Sing, C.E.; Zwanikken, J.W.; Olvera de la Cruz, M.; "Effect of Ion-Ion Correlations on Polyelectrolyte Gel Collapse and Reentrant Swelling." Macromolecules. 2013 46, 5053-5065.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Force Spectroscopy of Self-Associating Homopolymers” Macromolecules 2012 45(16), 6704-6718.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Designed Molecular Mechanics Using Self-associating Polymer Components” Soft Matter 2012 8, 11871-11879.
  • Sing, C.E.; Einert, T.A.; Netz, R.R.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Probing Structural Transitions in Polymer Globules by Force.” Phys. Rev. E 2011 83(4), 040801(R).
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Collapsed polymer behavior in combinations of shear and elongational flow fields.” J. Chem. Phys. 2011 135, 014902.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Theory of tethered polymers in shear flow: the strong stretching limit.” Macromolecules 2011 44(22), 9020-9028.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Giant non-monotonic stretching response of a self-associating polymer in shear flow” Phys. Rev. Lett. 2011 107, 198302.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Equilibrium Structure and Dynamics of Self-Associating Single Polymers” Macromolecules 2011 44(17), 6962-6971.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Non-monotonic lift forces on stretched polymers near surfaces.” EPL 2011 95, 48001.
  • Einert, T.A.; Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; Netz, R.R.; “Internal Friction of Homo-polymeric Systems Studied by Diffusion and Non-equilibrium Unfolding of Globules.” Eur. Phys. J. E. 2011 34, 130.
  • Sing, C.E.; Schmid, L.; Schneider, M.; Franke, T.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Self-assembled colloidal walkers: from single chain motion to controlled surface-induced flows.” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2010 107(2), 535-540.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Globule-stretch transitions of collapsed polymers in elongational flow fields.” Macromolecules 2010 43(7), 3532-3541.
  • Sing, C.E.; Alexander-Katz, A.; “Elongational flow induces the unfolding of von Willebrand Factor at physiological flow rates.” Biophys. J.  2010 98(9), L35- L37.
  • Sing, C.E.; Kunzelman, J.; Weder, C.; “Time-temperature indicators for high temperature applications.” J. Mat. Chem. 2009, 19(1), 104-110.
  • Crenshaw, B.; Kunzelman, J.; Sing, C.E.; Ander, C.; Weder, C.; “Threshold Temperature Sensors with Tunable Properties.” Macromol. Chem. Phys. 2007, 208, 572-580.


  • Forbes 30 Under 30 for Science (2015)
  • International Institute for Nanotechnology Postdoctoral Fellowship (2012)
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (2009-2012)
  • MIT/Dupont Alliance Presidential Fellowship (2008)

Teaching Honors

  • MIT DMSE Graduate Student Teaching Award (2012)

Research Honors

  • MIT DMSE Best PhD Thesis Award (2013)