James Forrest

Professor, Physics and Astronomy; University Research Chair

Research interests: surfaces and interaction of softmaterials (polymers, proteins, colloids) at the nanoscale


At Waterloo, Professor Jamie Forrest is head of the Polymer Physics group that works out of a $2 million facility funded by the federal and provincial governments. The facility provides a wide variety of characterization techniques to study synthetic polymer and proteins in thin films or near surfaces and interfaces.

A particular strength of the Polymer Physics group is the investigation of the glass transition and associated dynamics in thin polymer films. This is combined with detailed investigations into the static structural properties, as well as surface and interfacial properties. Recently they have begun investigations into a number of biological systems which include the kinetics of protein adsorption onto surfaces as well as the structure of adsorbed proteins. We pursue both applied and fundamental problems and continue to make significant scientific advances in physics, chemistry, biology and health sciences.

Forrest’s group is widely published, including a recent article in Science Magazine that showed how solids behave like liquids at the nanoscale. The discovery was considered a major step forward in measuring polymer substances using nanoscale technology. For this, and many of his contributions to the field of polymer physics, Forrest was elected as a 2009 fellow of the American Physical Society, a leading organization of physicists, including 60 Nobel Laureates.

Forrest obtained a BSc from the University of British Columbia and an MSc/PhD from the University of Guelph. He worked at Chalmers University in Sweden and the University of Sheffield in England, before coming to University of Waterloo in 2000.


  • PhD, University of Guelph
  • MSc, University of Guelph
  • BSc, University of British Columbia

James Forrest

Awards and Honours

2013 Co-recipient of the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) Brockhouse Medal


Research interests

  • Physics of soft materials
  • Physics of polymer thin films
  • Crystalline polymers; polymer interfaces and adhesion
  • Confinement of polymer chains
  • Glass transition in confined geometry, bionanoplasmonics, protein adsorption and interaction between proteins and nanoparticles

Dynamics in thin polymer films

The Waterloo Polymer Physics group has made many important contributions to the study of the glass transition in thin polymer films. The general premise of such studies is that the dynamics in thin films can be significantly different from that of the bulk polymer. From an applied point of view the glass transition is an important parameter describing the temperature dependent dynamics of the system. These properties in turn largely determine which application a particular material is suited for. From a more fundamental viewpoint, thin polymer films provide excellent sample geometry for studying what are termed finite size effects in model glass forming materials. This may lead to significant advances in our understanding of this outstanding unsolved problem in condensed matter physics. Our studies here have focused on measurements of the glass transition temperature, as well as more direct studies of the dynamics. We have used ellipsometry, photon correlation spectroscopy, dielectric relaxation, quartz crystal microbalance, and inelastic neutron scattering in these studies.

Properties of polymer surfaces and interfaces

There are a number of reasons to think that the properties of polymers may be different at interfaces and surfaces than in the bulk of a material. We have been actively involved in this area from looking at the adhesion of micron sized particles to Porous Silicon (PS) surfaces, embedding of nm sized particle to PS surfaces and looking at interface formation between miscible and immiscible blends when one of the constituents is still in a glassy state.

Structural properties in thin films

Structural as well dynamical properties can be different in a thin film geometry. We are interested in fundamental questions such as, "What is the density in a thin film?" as well as more applied questions like, "What is the composition in blended systems, or those with impurities?". Our studies in this are span a very wide range. We have used optical scattering techniques, microscopy, dynamics secondary ion mass spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to study these sample.

Biopolymers at surfaces and interfaces

Proteins have specific conformations which define their biologically active state. These configurations are typically determined by the details of interactions between the different constituent monomers as well as interactions with the aqueous solution. This delicate balance of interactions which is required to have a protein remain in a biologically active state can be significantly perturbed by the presence of
interfaces. The monomer-surface interaction can potentially be much stronger than hydropobic interactions which cause the molecule to campactify and leave open the possibility not only for the protein to adsorb onto the surface but also to denature onto it. We are beginning to investigate proteins at interfaces.


Recent publications include:

  • Cooperative strings and glassy interfaces, Salez, Thomas; Salez, Justin; Dalnoki-Veress, Kari; Raphael, Elie; Forrest, James A., PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 112(27), 8227-8231, (2015)

  • Competitive Effects from an Artificial Tear Solution to Protein Adsorption, Hall, Brad; Jones, Lyndon W.; Forrest, James A., OPTOMETRY AND VISION SCIENCE, 92(7), 781-789, (2015)

  • Kinetics of Competitive Adsorption between Lysozyme and Lactoferrin on Silicone Hydrogel Contact Lenses and the Effect on Lysozyme Activity, Hall, Brad; Jones, Lyndon; Forrest, James A., CURRENT EYE RESEARCH, 40(6), 622-631, (2015)

  • Enhanced high-frequency molecular dynamics in the near-surface region of polystyrene thin films observed with beta-NMR, McKenzie, Iain; Daley, Chad R.; Kiefl, Robert F.; Levy, C. D. Philip; MacFarlane, W. Andrew; Morris, Gerald D.; Pearson, Matthew R.; Wang, Dong; Forrest, James A., SOFT MATTER, 11(9), 1755-1761, (2015)

  • Enhanced Photothermal Conversion in Vertically Oriented Gallium Arsenide Nanowire Arrays, Walia, Jaspreet; Dhindsa, Navneet; Flannery, Jeremy; Khodabad, Iman; Forrest, James; LaPierre, Ray; Saini, Sirnarjeet S., NANO LETTERS, 14(10), 5820-5826, (2014)

  • Extraction versus In Situ Techniques for Measuring Surface-Adsorbed Lysozyme, Hall, Brad; Phan, Chau-Minh; Subbaraman, Lakshman; Jones, Lyndon W.; Forrest, James, OPTOMETRY AND VISION SCIENCE, 91(9), 1062-1070, (2014)

  • When Does a Glass Transition Temperature Not Signify a Glass Transition?, Forrest, J. A.; Dalnoki-Veress, K., ACS MACRO LETTERS, 3(4), 310-314, (2014)

  • A Direct Quantitative Measure of Surface Mobility in a Glassy Polymer, Chai, Y.; Salez, T.; McGraw, J. D.; Benzaquen, M.; Dalnoki-Veress, K.; Raphael, E.; Forrest, J. A., SCIENCE, 343(6174), 994-999, (2014)

  • Dynamics near Free Surfaces and the Glass Transition in Thin Polymer Films: A View to the Future, Ediger, M. D.; Forrest, J. A., MACROMOLECULES, 47(2), 471-478, (2014)

  • Diameter Dependent Heating in GaAs Nanowires, Walia, Jaspreet; Dhindsa, Navneet; Flannery, Jeremy; Khodadad, Iman; Forrest, James; LaPierre, Ray; Saini, Simarjeet, 2014 IEEE 14TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON NANOTECHNOLOGY (IEEE-NANO), 893-895, (2014)

  • Highly Enhanced Raman Scattering of Graphene using Plasmonic Nano-Structure, M. Khorasaninejad, S.M. Raeis-Zadeh, S. Jafarlou, M.J. Wesolowski, C.R. Daley, J.B. Flannery, J. Forrest, S. Safavi-Naeini, S.S. Saini, Scientific Reports, 3, 2013
  • What can we learn about a dynamical length scale in glasses from measurements of surface mobility?, J.A. Forrest, Journal of Chemical Physics, 139(8), 2013
  • Measuring the kinetics and activity of adsorbed proteins: In vitro lysozyme deposited onto hydrogel contact lenses over short time periods, B. Hall, L. Jones, J.A. Forrest, Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, 101A(3), 755-764, 2013
  • Robust thin-film fluorescence thermometry for prolonged measurements in microfluidic devices, K.M. Schreiter, T. Glawdel, J.A. Forrest, C.L. Ren, RSC Advances, 3(38), 17236-17243, 2013
  • Molecular weight dependence of near surface dynamical mechanical properties of polymers, D. Qi, C.R. Daley, Y. Chai, J.A. Forrest, Soft Matter, 9(37), 8958-5964, 2013
  • Method for Altering the Optical Density and Spectral Transmission or Reflectance of Contact Lenses, J.A. Forrest, L.W.J. Jones, B.J. Hall, WO Patent 2,012,058,775,2012
  • Measuring the glass transition of polymer nanodroplets, C. Daley, J. A. Forrest, Bulletin of the American Physical Society, 57, 2012
  • A Direct Relationship between Enhanced Surface Mobility and Tg Reduction in Thin Polymer Films, Z. Fakhraai, J.A. Forrest, D. Qi, Bulletin of the American Physical Society, 2012
  • Reduced Glass Transition Temperatures of Thin Polymer Films-Confinement Effect or Artifact?, O. Baeumchen, J.D. McGraw, J.A. Forrest, K. Dalnoki-Veress, Bulletin of the American Physical Society 57, 2012
  • Influence of Particle Size on the Binding Activity of Proteins Adsorbed onto Gold Nanoparticles, K. Kaur, J.A. Forrest, Langmuir, 2012
  • Comparing surface and bulk flow of a molecular glass former, CR Daley, Z Fakhraai, MD Ediger, JA Forrest, Soft Matter 8 (7), 2206-2212, 2012
  • Measuring surface and bulk relaxation in glassy polymers, D Qi, M Ilton, JA Forrest, The European Physical Journal E: Soft Matter and Biological Physics 34 (6), 1-7, 2011
  • Molecular Mobility on the Surface of Glassy Tris-naphthylbenzene (TNB), Z Fakhraai, C Daley, SF Swallen, D Scifo, JA Forrest, MD Ediger, Bulletin of the American Physical Society 56, 2011
  • Effect of molecular weight on gold nanoparticle embedding into polystyrene films near and below the bulk glass transition temperature, C Daley, D Qi, J Forrest, Bulletin of the American Physical Society 56, 2011
  • Surface Dynamics in Glass forming Materials, J Forrest, Bulletin of the American Physical Society 56, 2011
  • Relaxation of surface tracks on polycarbonate thin films induced by MeV heavy-ion impacts, R Leal, CT Souza, MR da Silva, Z Fakhraai, JA Forrest, RM Papaléo, Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam, 2010
  • Direct evidence of enhanced surface mobility in molecular glass forming system 1, 3-bis-(1-naphthyl)-5-(2-naphthyl) benzene, C Daley, D Scifo, Z Fakhraai, M Ediger, J Forrest, Bulletin of the American Physical Society 55, 2010
  • Simultaneous Monitoring of Electroformation of Phospholipid Vesicles by Quartz Crystal Microbalance and Optical Microscopy, V.H. Niri, B.K. Flatt, Z. Fakhraai, J.A. Forrest, J. Chem. Phys. Lipid, 163, 36-41, 2010
  • Relaxation of surface tracks on polycarbonate thin films induced by MeV , heavy-ion impacts , R. Leal, C.T. Souza , M.R. da Silva , Z. Fakhraai , J.A. Forrest, R.M. Papaléo, Nuclear Instrumentation and Methods in Physics Research, 268(19):3080-3083, Oct. 2010.
  • Using nanoparticle embedding to probe surface rheology and the length scale of surface mobility in glassy polymers, M.Ilton, D. Qi, J.A. Forrest, Macromolecules (communication) ma901057b, 2009
  • Influence of nanoparticle size on the pH dependent structure of adsorbed proteins studied with quantitative localized surface Plasmon resonance, J.H. Teichroeb, P. Z. McVeigh, J.A. Forrest, European Physical Jornal E- Soft Matter, 2009
  • Influence of nanoparticle size on the pH dependent structure of adsorbed proteins studied with quantitative localized surface Plasmon resonance, J.H. Teichroeb, P. Z. McVeigh, J.A. Forrest, European Physical Jornal E- Soft Matter2008)
  • Effect of atmosphere on reductions in the glass transition of thin polystyrene films , A.N. Raegen , M.V. Massa , J.A. Forrest , and K. Dalnoki-Veress1 , European Physical Journal E (in press, published online 2008)
  • Substrate and chain size dependence of near surface dynamics of glassy polymers, D. Qi, Z. Fakhraai, and J.A. Forrest- Physical Review Letters (2008), Selected for inclusion to Virtual journal of Nanoscale science and Technology
  • Size dependent denaturing kinetics of proteins adsorbed to nanoparticles, J.H. Teichroeb, J.A. Forrest, L.W. Jones , European Physical Journal E- Soft Matter (2008)
  • Imaging protein deposits on contact lenses, J.H. Teichroeb, J.A. Forrest, V. Ngai, J.W. -Martin, J. Medley- Optometry and Vision Science 2008; 85;12: 1151-1164.
  • Quartz Crystal microbalance study of protein adsorption kinetics on poly(2-hydroxy-ethyl methacrylate), J.H. Teichroeb, J.A. Forrest, L.W. Jones, J Chan, K. Dalton, J. Colloid, Int. Sci. (2008)
  • Measuring the Surface Dynamics of glassy polymers, Z. Fakhraai and J.A. Forrest, Science 319, 600 (2008), Selected for inclusion to Virtual journal of Nanoscale science and Technology, Cover story for nanomaterials news Vol Four Issue Two 27 March 2008

Please see James Forrest's Google Scholar profile for a current list of his peer-reviewed articles.