McLaughlin, Richard M

Richard McLaughlin


Phillips Hall 320

Research Interests

Experimental, theoretical, and computational fluid dynamics, random phenomena, and stochastic partial differential equations


Professional background

B.S Mathematics, the University of Arizona 1989
PhD Applied and Computational Mathematics, Princeton University, 1994
Wylie Instructor/NSF Postdoc, University of Utah, 1994-1996
Assistant Professor, University of Utah 1996-1998
Associate Professor, University of North Carolina, 1998-2004
Full Professor, UNC, 2004-present
Chair of Mathematics, 2013-present


Research Synopsis

My own work is in fundamental fluid dynamics. I use a blend of asymptotic and stochastic analysis, Monte-Carlo simulation, and experimental methods to uncover interesting fluid phenomena. Roberto Camassa and I built a large-scale modern facility for exploring fundamental fluid dynamics, hosting a 120 foot long modular wave-tank, a tilting wind tunnel, a salt water processing center, as well a huge array of instruments for making scientific measurements. Mathematics manages the facility which we share it with faculty in Marine Sciences, and have joint students and postdocs working in the lab from math, physics, marine sciences, environmental science, computer science, and biology.

Our scientific philosophy is to probe and unearth intriguing fluid phenomena and in turn to develop predictive, first principled, mathematical theory to explain that phenomena. We’ve been fortunate to have made a number of exciting discoveries through this effort, including levitation phenomena in settling particulates in stratified fluids, critical phenomena for the escape/trapping of fluid jets, blocking phenomena in shear flows past fixed bodies, paths of least time in potential flow, discovering how geometry can be used to control asymmetries in solute delivery, and most recently a truly novel self-assembly mechanism by which particles suspended within a stratified fluid attract seemingly to solve jig-saw like puzzles on its way to forming a large scale aggregate disc (this work appeared in Dec 2019 at Nature Communications, where it made its list of the top 50 most read physics papers of 2019).


Representative Publications

Enhanced Diffusivity and Skewness of a Diffusing Tracer in the Presence of an Oscillating Wall
Lingyun Ding, Robert Hunt, Richard M. McLaughlin, and Hunter Woodie,
Research in the Mathematical Sciences, L. Ding et al. Res Math Sci, 2021, 8:34, 2021

Persisting Asymmetry in the Probability Distribution Function for a Random Advection–Diffusion Equation in Impermeable Channels
Roberto Camassa, Lingyun Ding, Zeliha Kilic, Richard M. McLaughlin,
Physica D, R. Camassa, L. Ding, Z. Kilic et al., Physica D 425, 2021, 132930, 2021

A First-Principle Mechanism for Particulate Aggregation and Self-Assembly in Stratified Fluids
R .Camassa, D. Harris, R. Hunt, Z. Kilic, and R. M. McLaughlin,
Nature Communications, 10, 5804, 2019

How Boundaries Shape Chemical Delivery in Microfluidics
M. Aminian, F. Bernardi, R. Camassa, R Harris, and R. M. McLaughlin,
Science, 354, 6317, 1252-1256, 2016

Squaring the Circle: Geometric Skewness and Symmetry Breaking for Passive Scalar Transport in Ducts and Pipes
M. Aminian, F. Bernardi, R. Camassa, and R. M. McLaughlin,
Physical Review Letters, 115, 154503, 2015


Dr. Saenz in Endeavors

Dr. Saenz in Endeavors

This interview with Dr. Saenz was featured in the July 2021 issue of UNC's research magazine, Endeavors

Strayer and Morgan FPG Honor Society

Strayer and Morgan FPG Honor Society

Math Grad Students Katrina Morgan and Michael Strayer…