Professor Eugene Terentjev

    Biological & Soft Systems
    925 Rutherford Building 
    Cavendish Laboratory
    JJ Thomson Avenue 
    Cambridge   CB3 0HE    
    Tel. +44 (0)1223 337003    
    Fax. +44 (0)1223 337000 

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A BBSRC Targeted PhD Studentship is available (see details of the programme or ask me directly).
The application must be made under Physics Department (see details here). The project title is:
Modelling mechanosensitivity of the 2nd kind: how cells feel and respond to stiffness of their environment.   The is a theoretical work (mathematical modelling), in collaboration with clinical studies on neuron/glial cells and on smooth muscle cells. Cells have several known mechanisms to sense and respond to applied external forces. However, sensing the stiffness (elastic modulus or viscosity) requires very different physical processes, because to find the modulus a “detector” has to apply a force, and at the same time measure the displacement with respect to some reference – something hard to achieve in a cell (we call this the mechanosensitivity of the 2nd kind). In developing the theoretical model of this process, three aspects are needed: (a) understanding the individual sensor mechanism, (b) mapping the signalling feedback loop that leads to the cell phenotypical response, and (c) identifying mechanisms of sensor coupling, leading to clustering and “focal adhesions”.

Research Activities

Representative research topics are formulated on the BSS Research interests list (but not updated very often).   My (and all BSS) publications are accessible on the searchable (and downloadable) database BSS Publications database (which gets better and more comprehensive all the time).   The Thomson-Reuters (Web of Knowledge) maintain my ResearcherID link -- button on the right.

With Mark Warner, we have written a monograph "Liquid Crystal Elastomers". From the book's website you could download the first Chapter, called "The Bird's Eye View", which is an overview of the new physics arising in this field; the Appendices of the paperback edition are also downloadable there.   With David Weitz we have put together a volume: The Oxford Handbook of Soft Condensed Matter (here, I am afraid, the OUP didn't let us upload a PDF).

I am involved in a number of research projects in a broad area of soft condensed matter and biological physics. The list is long, and changing all the time depending on the current fashion, unexpected discovery, external collaboration, funding, or just a chance. However, a few areas are big enough and with a sufficiently long half-life:

  • Mechanics of cells and tissues. This area is being "revived" with the rise of Physics of Medicine (see above). We look theoretically at the mechanisms of mechano-sensitivity: how the cells and confluent tissues respond to changes in mechanical characteristics of their environment. A current experimental projects examine how fascia and other ligamentous tissue respond to strain: to maintain homeostasis there has to be an active recovery exerting a force higher than the one originally applied - but how is not yet clear.

  • Filaments and their networks. This is a broad area, inspired by biological filaments (e.g. amyloid fibrils, actin, or microtubules - but equally carbon nanotubes), which uses our expertise in polymer physics. Here the work is mostly theoretical, in collaboration with single-molecule and cell-mechanics experiments in the BSS group. What is the kinetics of filament growth? How is the buckling compression force depends on filament structure? How to understand the ratchet nature of cell deformation from the underlying actin growth/buckling dynamics? These the kind of questions we were working on recently.

  • Chirality and Biopolymers is an old area of my interest. Again, combining the theory and experiment (dynamic-mechanical and optical), we are trying to establish the effects of molecular chirality and stereo-specific interactions (on the level of primary/secondary structure) on the macroscopic response of polymers and their networks or aggregates structures.

  • Liquid crystalline elastomers are crosslinked or thermoplastic rubbery networks of polymer chains that possess a spontaneous orientational order. The resulting effects are quite unique: from the thermal and photo-actuation (artificial muscles), to the soft elasticity, to the quenched random disorder and complicated dynamics - the liquid crystal elastomers have a real claim to be regarded as a new state of matter!... Our group has a long history of theoretical and experimental studies in this field and also a unique combination of capacities: the chemical synthesis facility, the advanced dynamic-mechanical and optical experimental base and, most importantly, the full synergy between theory, physical experiment and the chemistry.

  • My other interests in physics of polymers and liquid crystals mainly lie in topological defects, kinetic theory, fluid dynamics of l.c. colloids or filled l.c. polymers, as well as various issues of phase ordering, interactions, kinetics of mixtures and emulsions with a symmetry-broken component. Experimentally, we are studying the rheology of complex fluid systems, in particular, the response during phase transformations when new structures and internal constraints emerge in the system.

    Several possible PhD projects are available, in all of the above research areas and in all three directions (theory, experiment and chemical synthesis), for the start in October (check the Cavendish rules for PhD application, but contact me first for preliminary discussions). Remember, the official deadline for PhD placements is in March, and it can only be bent in a limited way.

    Part II - Soft Condensed Matter (active 2013)

    Part II - Thermal and Statistical Physics (ended 2012)

    Part II - Theoretical Physics (TP1) (ended 2007)

    Part III Minor Option - Polymers and Colloids (ended 2005)

    Former students and postdocs

    Links to some relevant Cavendish pages

    Just in case you are wondering - we still live at 18 Hurrell Road, Cambridge CB4 3RH
    This is now a site of Arbury Osteopathic Clinic, run by Helen Terentjev