The Universe in a Bacterial Colony - An Introduction to Bacteria as Active Matter

25 January 2016, 4.00 PM - 25 January 2016, 5.00 PM

Professor Wilson Poon (Edinburgh)

Mott Lecture Theatre

The study of 'active matter' has become very fashionable in condensed matter physics nowadays. I will start by introducing the field in general, before homing in on bacteria as some of the simplest experimental realisations of active matter systems in the laboratory. After briefly surveying how motile bacteria behave as active matter, I'll focus on the apparently simple phenomenon of a single, immotile bacterium giving birth to daughter cells by binary fission. In particular, I will demonstrate how one could extend concepts learnt from the study of (passive) liquid crystals - nematic order, defects, etc. - to the description and elucidation of the process whereby a bacterial colony grows, initially in 2D, before buckling into the third dimension. An analogue to Hubble's Law for the universe-at-large will be established, and shown to be crucial to the emergence of new phenomena in a growing bacterial colony not so far observed in other active matter systems. 

All Colloquia take place on Monday at 4 pm in The Mott Lecture Theatre, H H Wills Physics Laboratory. Refreshments will be served beforehand at 3:30 pm in the Phys Bar on the ground floor.

Contact information

Enquiries to Lucy Alker ( or Michael Berry (

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