UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy

Dr Maxim Molodtsov

Dr Maxim Molodtsov

Senior Research Fellow

Dept of Physics & Astronomy

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
3rd Jan 2019

Research summary

I am the head of the Biophysics and Mechanobiology laboratory, which investigates how cells organise themselves in space and time at multiple scales, from single molecules to cellular structures. Specifically, we are interested in molecular forces and mechanisms that rearrange our genomes as cells grow and divide. At the molecular level, these rearrangements are driven by combination of motor and non-motor proteins that generate and respond to mechanical forces. However, how action of multiple molecules is coordinated and integrated is not understood. Mutations that lead to disorganization cause developmental disorders and cancer. Therefore, our goal is to understand the fundamental principles underlying intracellular rearrangements and their physical mechanisms.

To achieve this, we use broad range of single-molecule techniques including force spectroscopy, single-molecule imaging and single-molecule FRET and we continue developing new tools to understand mechanistics of the machinery that moves and reorganizes DNA. In the past we made important discoveries of mechanisms that drive DNA organization and cytoskeleton rearrangements (Molodtsov et al., 2016, Davidson et al., 2016) as well as developed new physical tools for imaging (Noebauer et al., 2017).

We are part of both the Francis Crick - pioneering research biomedical institute and Physics and Astronomy department of UCL and we collaborate extensively with multiple groups both at the Crick and UCL as well as external institutes.


I obtained his MSc degree from the Physics Department of the Lomonosov Moscow State University. Then I moved to the laboratory of Richard McIntosh at the University of Colorado Boulder (US), where I measured forces generated by disassembling microtubules and showed that these forces are sufficient to drive chromosome movements in mitosis. After obtaining my PhD, I returned to Russia, where I worked on establishing on of the first single-molecule biophysics research in the country.


In 2012, I won a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship and moved the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, Austria, where he joined the laboratory of Alipasha Vaziri and established a close collaboration with Stefan Westermann. 

This research resulted in the discovery of a microtubule force generated mechanism of cytoskeleton rearrangements. I also co-developed novel tools for high-speed 3D imaging as well as new quantum optical approaches and mathematical framework for studying human vision. Later I started collaborating with Jan-Michael Peters’ laboratory on the structure of DNA and we discovered some fundamental mechanistic principles underlying folding of genomes. 


Since 2019, I am a group leader at the Department of Physics and Astronomy and at the Francis Crick Institute.