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Sources: Frank Male,;
and Bruce Law, 785-532-1618,
Photo available. Contact or 785-532-6415.
Video available. Access at
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415,

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Frank Male


MANHATTAN -- The physics of liquid surfaces plays an important role in many biological processes -- though it is not well understood. One Kansas State University student's research is increasing this subject knowledge.

Frank Male, senior in physics and political science from Eudora, has worked since a freshman with Bruce Law, professor of physics at K-State. Male is researching the behavior of liquids in microfluidic channels.

Microfluidic devices, which are the size of a credit card, are chemical factories on a chip; micron-size channels, which are smaller than the width of a human hair, are etched into the surface of these devices and liquid is propelled along these channels, Law said.

"Where two different liquid streams meet, chemical reactions can occur," Law said. "For example, scientists are trying to make devices that can analyze your blood in the doctor’s office, rather than having the blood sent off for analysis."

Law said liquid motion along micron-sized channels, and how this depends upon channel shape and the liquid propensity for the solid walls, is not well understood.

Male is studying liquid filaments in triangular channels. Law said under certain conditions, these liquid filaments are unstable and break up into droplets, as opposed to the behavior of liquid filaments in rectangular channels, which are always stable.

"The liquid filament breakup could be a desirable effect if one is trying to create uniform droplet micro-reactors, or, an undesirable effect if one wants a uniform liquid filament," Law said. "A scientific understanding of this behavior will help propel this field forward."

In addition, Male has been collaborating with Martin Brinkmann, scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Goettingen, Germany, to use computer modeling of the liquid flow in triangular channels to gain a theoretical understanding of this liquid instability from liquid filaments to liquid droplets. Once completed, these computer models will be compared with actual experiments.

Male's research is funded by a National Science Foundation grant, which stipulates that students conduct part of their research at the German institute. He has spent three summers in Germany, including the year that the World Cup was in Berlin where Male said he saw "many angry soccer fans." He plans to return to the institute this summer.

Male compares his combination of political science and physics studies to successful figures with a similar background.

"I like to bring it back to Ben Franklin, because he's the most prominent example I can think of," Male said. "He was fairly involved in political science, obviously, and he also was a great inventor."

Male's interest in physics began in grade school when his mother went back to college to earn a teaching degree.

"She would bring home her astronomy and chemistry textbooks, and I'd just read through those things like they were nothing," he said. "I was so excited."

He plans to pursue a doctorate in physics and either work for a small high-technology firm or a physics research laboratory.

"I would like to go into a small high-tech firm -- the type that is looking for more of a Renaissance man instead of a straight research buff," Male said, "I'm hardly a Renaissance man, but I try to come up as close as possible."

Male also plays the guitar, is training for a marathon and writes opinion and news articles for the K-State Collegian.

"The Collegian is about my only political science outlet, so every once in a while I can sneak something about physics in there," he said.

He is a member of the Smith Scholarship House, where he has served as recruiting chair. He also is a member of the Arts and Sciences College Council and College Republicans, and has judged elementary school science fairs for K-State's Women in Engineering and Science Program.

A 2005 graduate of Eudora High School, he is the son of Frank and Kallie Male, Eudora.