Armstrong Mbi

Armstrong is a native of Cameroon who owes his interest in physics to a handful of high school teachers and a Peace Corps physics teacher. “In an environment where learning conditions were poor, they made science and physics exciting,” he says. Armstrong obtained his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Buea. He then began his graduate studies in the U.S., first getting an MS in engineering physics from Mississippi State University. After completing his MS, Armstrong was attracted to the Industrial Leadership in Physics track at Georgetown due to its emphasis on preparing students to work in industry. “Through the ILP program, I’ve been able to do course work and projects in finance, economics, marketing, as well as in intellectual property law,” says Armstrong.

At Georgetown, Armstrong fell in love with soft matter physics and jumped on the opportunity to work with the just-arrived Professor Daniel Blair to help build his lab. Armstrong explains, “The experience of contributing to the building of a new research lab from the ground up to a full-fledged running research lab is an experience that not many students get to have.”

Armstrong’s research focuses on using a novel technique called Confocal-Rheology to investigate the micromechanical properties of colloidal glasses. “We try to understand how these so called jammed materials behave under applied shear both from a macroscopic perspective by using a rheometer, and at a microscopic level using a high resolution confocal microscope. We are able to look at local rearrangements of the particles in a colloidal silica glass under shear. Using custom MATLAB code, we quantify the particles’ behavior in order to better understand the material’s mechanical behavior. Our work has pretty cool applications, for example, in designing new kinds of bulletproof vests that have proven to be tougher than those currently available in the market.”

Armstrong took up running a few years ago, and has successfully completed several 5K, 10K, half marathons and the Marine Corps marathon. Lately he has also been catching shows at the Kennedy center. After completing his degree, he hopes to work for a multinational corporation, working and living in other parts of the world.