LMCB - Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology

Thomas Michaels's picture
Lecturer in Theoretical Biological Physics
+44 (0)20  3897 2405
LMCB Room 2.01
Theoretical biological physics and control theory

Research synopsis

The Michaels lab is an interdisciplinary research group based at the LMCB and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. We use ideas from theoretical physics, control theory and computational biology, in close collaboration with experimentalists, to develop a quantitative understanding of complex systems in biology.
Most of our current research seeks to understand how functional and pathological biomolecular aggregation processes are regulated in time and in space in living systems. Current projects include understanding how liquid organelles act as control mechanisms for biochemistry inside living cells and modelling the pathological aggregation of proteins into amyloid fibrils, a process involved in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Our theoretical work in this area provides a basis for the rational design of potential therapeutic strategies for neurodegeneration. 
The theoretical and computational methods we develop also apply to a wide range of complex systems beyond biological aggregation, and we have recently become interested in studying the interplay between aging and cancer from a network physics and control theory perspective.
We are proud that some of our research work is guided by pure curiosity and fascination for the wonders of biology. If you are curious too, read our latest Nature Physics article on the mathematical shape of apples!

Selected publications

A Chakrabarti*, TCT Michaels* et al (2021). The cusp of an apple. Nature Physics 17, 1125 (* equal contribution) 
TCT Michaels, et al (2020). Thermodynamic and kinetic principles for amyloid-aggregation inhibitors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 117, 24251
E Sun*, TCT Michaels* et al (2020). Optimal control of aging in complex networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 117, 20404 (* equal contribution)
TCT Michaels, et al (2019). Optimal control strategies for inhibition of protein aggregation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 116, 14593



Research themes

Protein aggregation
Liquid phase separation
Membrane biophysics


Theoretical biophysics
Computational biology
Control theory
Applied mathematics


Alisdair Stevenson (PhD student)
Claudia De Sousa Miranda (PhD student - cosupervised with P. Pearce)
Samo Curk (PhD student - cosupervised with A. Saric)
Billie Meadowcroft (PhD student - cosupervised with A. Saric)
Zac Hale (Masters student)
Logan De Monchaux-Irons (Masters student)
Lisa Coiffard (Undergraduate student)


Andela Saric (LMCB, UK)
Philip Pearce (UCL Maths, UK)
Tuomas Knowles (Cambridge University, UK)
Michele Vendruscolo (Cambridge University, UK)
Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan (Harvard University, USA)
Christoph Weber (Max Planck Institute, Germany)
Jeremy Schmit (Kansas State University, USA)
Paolo Arosio (ETH Zurich, Switzerland)