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Topics in Theoretical Physics


Admission Requirements



Soft and bio-mechanics
This course aims to provide an introduction to the mechanics of soft materials, of which biological materials are prominent examples. Soft materials are those that can be easily deformed by external stress, electromagnetic fields or thermal fluctuations: in other words everything that is wet, squishy or floppy.

Elements of viscoelasticity

  • Walking on liquids and other exotic properties of viscoelastic fluids

  • Fundamental concepts of viscoelasticity

  • Maxwell and Kelvin-Voigt models

  • Time-dependent viscoelastic moduli

  • The Oldroyd-B model
    Liquid Crystals

  • The zoo of liquid crystals: nematics, smectics, cholesterics, hexatics and more

  • Frank elasticity

  • Equilibrium configuration in nematics

  • Topological defects in nematics

  • Coupling to external fields and the Fredericks transition

  • Nematodynamics
    Active Matter

  • Remarks on the physics of living systems

  • Collective behavior in animal groups: swarming/flocking/schooling and the Vicsek model

  • Collective behavior in robots and sperm

  • Active liquid crystals and the cell cytoskeleton

  • Spontaneous flow in active nematics

  • Active flow in proximity of topological defects

  • Cell mimicry in active droplets

  • Open problems

Mechanics of adherent cells

  • Actin cytoskeleton and cell adhesion

  • Basic concepts of cell motility

  • The Young-Laplace law and the contractile network model

  • Bending elasticity and the contractile film model

Course objectives

The course main objective is to provide the students with a solid core-knowledge on the mechanics of soft and biomaterials, such that, after the course, the students will have enough background to independently learn about these topics from the specialized literature. In order to encourage this latter aspect, the course will consist of a combination of lectures and seminars given by the students.


Physics Schedule

Mode of instruction

Lectures and student seminars.

Assessment method

Final project (reading assignment) + oral presentation


To have access to Blackboard you need a ULCN-account.Blackboard UL

Reading list

The reading material will be handed to the stundents during the lectures.


Contactgegevens Docent:Dr. L.Giomi (Luca)