Mason received dual B.S. degrees in physics (with high honors) and electrical engineering (summa cum laude) from the University of Maryland- College Park in 1989. Awarded an NSF graduate fellowship, he studied soft condensed matter physics at Princeton University and earned his Ph.D. in physics in 1995. His dissertation work revealed the roles of the glass transition and the jamming transition in the onset of low-frequency elasticity in concentrated, disordered colloidal dispersions of solid spheres and liquid droplets. Mason also created a new conceptual approach and developed an optical experimental method for measuring linear viscoelastic mechanical properties of soft materials; this approach is now known as thermal-entropic “passive” microrheology.
Mason’s first postdoctoral position was at the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal (CNRS) in Bordeaux, France, where he explored the complex structure-flow-composition interplay in emulsification. His second postdoctoral position was in chemical and bio-engineering at Johns Hopkins University, where he developed the first particle tracking microrheology experiments and demonstrated these on biopolymer solutions, including ds-DNA. As a staff scientist and PI at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co., starting in 1997, he led research in light and small angle neutron scattering from asphaltenes in hydrocarbon systems involving heavy oils, resulting in two US patents and an internal commercialization that improved refinery productivity.
Joining UCLA in 2003 as an assistant professor of chemistry and of physics, he advanced to full professor in both departments in 2009. Prof. Mason leads an interdisciplinary research group that addresses important fundamental and applied questions in soft matter, biophysics, drug formulation and delivery, and translational medicine. Current topics being studied by Mason’s group are: lithographic pre-assembly and self-assembly of systems of custom-shaped colloidal particles as molecular mimics, fabricating complex nanoemulsions via non-equilibrium routes for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes, modeling and improving passive microrheology, and passivated gel electrophoresis. Prof. Mason has over 130 publications in peer-reviewed journals, including Nature, Science, PNAS, PRL, and JACS, and 15 issued US patents, 13 of which are based on research at UCLA. He is a fellow and life member of the American Physical Society, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a recipient of NSF’s Career Award.
Microrheology is the study of the deformation and flow of complex fluids at the microscale. As a graduate student, T.G. Mason invented an approach in 1993 for deducing local and macroscopic viscoelastic shear moduli of complex fluids by measuring the thermal fluctuations of colloidal particles introduced as probes. This approach, later published in Physical Review Letters in 1995 with his advisor D.A. Weitz (PRL 74 1250), sparked the modern field of microrheology. We continue research on glasses using thermal microrheology; our group also uses laser tweezers to manipulate dielectric probe microparticles such as polystyrene spheres and wax disks in order to investigate non-linear rheological properties.
- Microrheology: measuring the dynamic mechanical shear properties of viscoelastic soft materials over an extraordinarily large range of time scales by optically observing the diffusive motion of micron-sized probe particles embedded in these materials
- Shear-induced structures in complex fluids: emulsification, shear-banding, shear-ordering
- Neutron and light scattering from nanomaterials: asphaltenes, clays, droplets, polymers
- Directed assembly of nanoparticles in solution using shape-dependent attractive interactions
- Free boundary flows in microfluidic devices
- Structure and dynamics of soft colloidal glasses
Honors & Awards
- 2021: Fellow of Society of Rheology
- 2019: Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- 2018: Rheologica Acta Publication Award
- 2008: Fellow of the American Physical Society
- 2008: Herbert Newby McCoy Award for Research Excellence (UCLA Dept. of Chemistry & Biochemistry)
- 2007: Gallery of Fluid Motion Award (American Institute of Physics and APS DFD)
- 2006: Intel New Faculty Award (Intel Corporation)
- 2006: Glenn T. Seaborg Award (Beta Gamma Chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma)
- 2006: Gallery of Fluid Motion Award (American Institute of Physics and APS DFD)
- 2005: NSF CAREER Award (National Science Foundation)
- 2003: John McTague Career Development Chair (UCLA Dept. of Chemistry & Biochem.)
- 1992: Exxon Graduate Research Fellow
- 1989: NSF Graduate Research Fellow (National Science Foundation)
- 1989: Joseph Henry Prize in Physics (Princeton University)
- 1989: Summa cum Laude in Physics and Electrical Engineering (University of Maryland, College Park)
- 1985: Chancellor’s Scholar (University of Maryland, College Park)