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Emory’s Justin C. Burton receives $1.25 million Moore Foundation Award
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Justin Burton, associate professor of physics, has received a $1.25 million grant to further his work investigating problems at the intersection of physics and geoscience.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded a $1.25 million Physics Investigators Initiative grant to Justin C. Burton, an associate professor of physics at Emory University. The grant will cover the next five years of Burton’s investigation in advancing the scientific frontier in experimental physics. 

Burton’s investigative research works to bridge the communication gap between geoscientists and soft matter experimentalists, who currently use different terminology to describe the same phenomena.

“This award is about new directions. It will allow our lab to investigate problems at the interface of physics and geoscience, problems with a direct impact on climate change,” says Burton. 

Burton’s research on geoscience and soft matter is expected to have immense impact and open new avenues of experimental soft matter physics for adapting to a changing climate. 

His group’s experiments aim to capture fundamental features of geophysical soft matter in the laboratory. They investigate the slow creep of materials such as glacial ice, the failure of granular materials and debris flows and the interactions of levitated dust particles in the atmosphere. 

In previous research, Burton helped develop a prototype acoustic levitation system that opens the door for air-culturing microbes in a well-controlled laboratory environment. 

This study led to Burton receiving a $1.2 million W.M. Keck Foundation award to explore an unprecedented study on how microbes adapt to living in the air and their roles in the ecosystem.

“Emory College leadership is absolutely thrilled that Dr. Burton has received this prestigious research award from the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation,” says Anita Corbett, Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Biology and senior associate dean of research at Emory College. 

“This Foundation supports path-breaking scientific discovery with the goal of creating positive outcomes for future generations,” Corbett says. “Professor Burton’s work on this project is key for empowering collaboration between different scientific communities, soft matter physicists and geoscientists that need to work together to effectively combat climate change now and in the future. The College is proud to support such scientific leaders.”

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