UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy

Prof Bart Hoogenboom

Prof Bart Hoogenboom

Professor of Biophysics

Dept of Physics & Astronomy

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Oct 2007

Research summary

I have a broad interest in the application of physical methods to understand biological phenomena at the scale of single molecules and molecular assemblies. Over the recent years, my research has increasingly focussed on molecular-scale mechanisms that are relevant for how pathogens (e.g., bugs, viruses) interact with their hosts (e.g., the human body).

My lab uses a range of methods, mostly experimental but also theoretical/computational. We are particularly keen on microscopic methods that enable us to probe and image single (or few) biomolecules under conditions that are near to those in a living cell, to thus observe biomolecules at work. Historically, our key expertise has been in atomic force microscopy (AFM). Using an extremely sharp tip, AFM allows us to scan a surface just like a blind person's fingertip reading Braille, “touching” and “feeling” single molecules and/or atoms. In addition, we explore other types of microscopy such as single-molecule fluorescence and electron microscopy.

Research topics in my lab include bacterial toxins and immune effectors that operate by punching holes into target membranes; antimicrobial peptides that can degrade bacterial membranes via a range of different mechanisms; transport (e.g., of viruses) into and out of the cell nucleus via the nuclear pore complex; DNA (super)structure and how it affects gene regulation; and single-molecule interactions of relevance for the function of pharmaceutical drugs.

A common element in all our research projects is that we combine our expertise in biophysics and nanotechnology with complementary and often very inspiring input from collaborators in other disciplines (mostly life sciences).

Teaching summary

Beside lab demonstrations, problem solving tutorials and research student supervision, I designed and lectured the MSci and graduate course Molecular Biophysics (2009/2010 – 2013/2014), and lectured the first-year course Waves, Optics and Acoustics (2014/2015 – 2017/2018).

Every summer, I lecture on the mechanics of molecules and biological structures at the European School On Nanosciences & Nanotechnologies (Grenoble, since 2012), and I regularly give introductory lectures and trainings on atomic force microscopy.

In 2016 and 2017, I was nominated for the Student Choice Teaching Award at UCL.


Universite de Genève
PhD, Condensed Matter Physics | 2002
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
MSc, Condensed Matter Physics | 1997


Bart Hoogenboom graduated in physics at the University of Groningen, including a research project on C60 (“buckyballs”) under supervision of Profs Hao Tjeng and George Sawatzky.

Following an internship at the European Synchroton Radiation Facility in Grenoble, he did his PhD research on high-temperature superconductivity, mostly using scanning tunnelling microscopy and spectroscopy, in Prof. Øystein Fischer’s lab in Geneva. At the end of his PhD, he was awarded the Prix Walthard of the University of Geneva, for excellence in both academia and sports (middle-distance running).

He then moved to Basel for postdoctoral research with Profs Hans Hug and Andreas Engel, mostly focussing on instrument development. This resulted in some of the (at that time) highest resolution atomic force microscopy images of surfaces in aqueous solution, in particular obtaining atomic resolution on mica and resolving single ion channels (VDACs) and their assemblies in mitochondrial outer membranes. 

Intrigued by the wide variety and depth of problems in biology, he moved to UCL to set up his own biophysics lab in 2007.