SLAM Research Groups

Luca Giomi

Lorentz Institute

Giomi's research aims at exploring the fuzzy interface between soft condensed matter and biological physics, using the universal language of geometry and mechanics and following the North Star of experimental evidence. This research endeavour resulted into a number of exciting discoveries, such as those related with the dynamics of defects in active matter, the geometry of bacterial monolayers and the origin of their transition to multilayered structures, the dynamics of cooperative sperm aggregates in competitive environments, the geometry and thermodynamics of lipid mixtures on curved topographies etc.

Martin van Hecke

Huygens Laboratorium and Amolf

Martin van Hecke is a group leader at AMOLF, Amsterdam, and a professor of physics at Leiden University. Since 2011, his research has focussed on mechanical metamaterials, from patterned elastic media to origami. In particular he has developed new design techniques to make complex metamaterials that straddle the boundary between material and machine, and that form complex patterns or can self-fold when compressed. He is a fellow of the APS and was awarded an ERC-advanced grant in 2021. He is now exploring if and how complex materials – from metamaterials to crumpled sheets – can store and process information.

Silke Henkes

Lorentz Institute

The research group of Silke Henkes focusses on the physics of active materials, that is how a collection of independently moving or forcing agents work together collectively. We specialize in a bottom-up approach with detailed numerical models of activity and interactions giving rise to such states as active liquids and glasses and active elastic solids. Of particular focus is the biophysics of epithelial tissues, where cells – squishy, crawling and contractile agents – produce two dimensional sheets that are essential to developmental biology and the healthy functioning of organs. In particular, we have recently used particle-based and vertex models to develop quantitative models of in-vitro epithelial sheets and the mammalian cornea.

Louise Jawerth

Huygens Laboratorium

Research in the Jawerth lab focuses on the material properties and dynamics of important biological systems. Very often, we study such materials on the mesoscale above one micron and below 100 microns where microscopic interactions lead to emergent behaviors. We use a combination of custom-built tools to deform materials as well as quantitative microscopy. Currently, we are studying protein condensates which are proteins that phase separate out of solution to form liquid-like droplets. Since their recent discovery, these materials have been found in most important biological functions ranging from transcription to neurodegeneration. Condensates exhibit a rich variety of material properties and dynamic behaviors which we are only beginning to uncover. For instance, they can undergo glasslike aging to solid-like materials, they spontaneously grow crystalline fibers and they have ultra-low surface tensions. The physics required to explain these phenomena is largely unknown. In the lab, we seek to develop a quantitative understanding of these phenomena that can pave the way for a deep theoretical understanding. Along the way, we often make new discoveries that broaden our understanding of these materials and their rich phenomenology.

Daniela Kraft

Huygens Laboratorium

Research in the Kraft lab is curiosity-driven and aims at identifying the physical principles underlying self-organization and connected complex behavior at the micrometer-scale. We tackle fundamental questions by designing simplified experimental model systems that consist of colloidal particles with tailored shape and interactions. Their size, which ranges from a few hundred to a few micrometers, makes them ideally suited to the job, because they undergo random thermal motion while at the same time being large enough to be directly visible. These model systems allow us to study the behavior of the individual components and identify the key parameters that decide about their successful or unsuccessful self-organization. Current research projects include the assembly and properties of flexible colloidal structures, measuring membrane-bending mediated interactions, and investigating the individual and collective behavior of self-propelled particles.

Alexandre Morin

Huygens Laboratorium

In the Morin lab we investigate the peculiar properties of soft condensed materials, with an emphasis on out-of-equilibrium systems. Our aim is to connect the large scale features of driven and active materials to the properties of their constituents in order to highlight the very specificity of these materials. Our experimental efforts proceed in two complementary directions. On one hand we try to elucidate the origin of striking collective phenomena, such as spatial ordering, flocking or synchrony. On the other hand, we target the development of individual units with specific dynamics and interactions to serve as building blocks for large assemblies with unique and/or desirable collective behaviors. In practice, we develop and study synthetic experimental systems ranging from the microscale to the macroscale and complement our findings with simplified numerical approaches and theoretical modelling.