Research in Physics, Biological and Soft Matter Physics is one of the two research directions in experimental physics at the Leiden Institute of Physics.
Biological Physics aims to understand biological processes in their natural context, being cells and tissues. This research is typically performed at the interface of medical, biological and physical sciences.
Soft Matter Physics focuses on the physics of soft materials, spanning from the microscopic interactions and assembly of colloids and polymers to the macroscopic behaviour of granular media, and the physics of folding and metamaterials. Based on the conceptual, theoretical and quantitative approach used in physics, the biological knowledge and experimental approaches are acquired in lectures, seminars and lab classes.
Similar to the other Research in Physics programmes, this programme guarantees a thorough experience on the frontline of physics research with a practical training of communicative and computer skills. It includes two experimental projects, performed in a master-apprentice setting in physics research groups active in the field of ‘Biological and Soft Matter Physics’, and a full year of courses at the undergraduate level. It also includes up to a full year of courses at undergraduate level, with mandatory courses in quantum theory and statistical physics.
One part of our cluster studies the mechanics of biological matter at the cellular level and beyond. We test for example the elasticity and stiffness of cells, DNA-molecules and membranes. In the end, we try to get a better understanding of diseases like cancer and Parkinson and the mechanisms behind heredity and evolution.
Another part of our cluster researches the properties of liquids, gels, colloids and foams. In short, anything that is soft. We research for example the influence of hole patterns on the bending of rubber or we make models of proteins by using colloids—large particles acting as nanoparticles. We also design imaging techniques such as fluorescence microscopy and electron paramagnetic resonance to study single molecules and paramagnetic materials.