Simon Titmuss


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Physics of bacterial life and death & physics of viruses

Personal profile

Research Interests

Simon's research is in experimental approaches to tackle problems at the Physics & Life Sciences interface.

Specifically the application of neutron scattering and reflectivity to investigate a physical basis for the life and death of bacteria and the mechanical and self-assembly properties of viruses.

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has in 2013 been placed on the National Risk Register and we are trying to identify unifying physical principles in the way in which peptides involved in controlling bacterial growth and cell division interact with bacterial membranes and how this is modulated by the cell's metabolic state via membrane potential.

Viruses have unique mechanical properties: they have to be strong enough to withstand the stresses involved in reaching their target in a host but fragile enough that disassembly and release of genetic material can be triggered by physicochemical stimulli on reaching the target. We are investigating the physical principles behind this using a combination of high resolution neutron spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulations.

Simon's background is in soft condensed matter physics, having previously worked a range of systems involving polymer functionalized interfaces: Pickering emulsions stabilized by responsive polymer brush functionalized gold nanoparticles; stealth viruses formed from polymer coated Adenovirus; planar gold and sapphire interfaces functionalized with responsive polymer brushes. 

The current biological physics problems are approached from this soft condensed matter physics background.



  • I am Course Organizer and Lecturer for Biological Physics (PHYS11040, Level 11, year 4/5)
  • I teach on the pre-Honours Physics of Fields & Matter course (PHYS08046, Level 8, year 2)
  • I run a Group project "Neutron sources for soft matter and biological physics" (PHYS11011, Level 11, year 4)
  • I am a Personal Tutor

Administrative Roles

I am the Depute Edinburgh Deputy Director for the SOFI CDT

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), A new approach to surface structure determination by low energy electron diffraction, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jan 2000

Bachelor of Arts, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jan 1994


  • QC Physics
  • Biological Physics
  • neutron scattering
  • soft condensed matter
  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • neutron reflectometry
  • neutron spin echo


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