Dr Neil H Thomson

Dr Neil H Thomson


I joined the University of Leeds as an ESPRC Advanced Research Fellow in 2000 within the School of Physics and Astronomy. In 2005, I became a Leeds University Research Fellow joint between the Schools of Dentistry and Physics. In 2010, I was promoted to Reader in Biological Physics and Bionanotechnology.

I obtained my PhD from the University of Bristol in 1995, before postdoctoral appointments at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) (1995-1997), University of Nottingham (1998) and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland (1999).  


  • Deputy Director of Research and Innovation
  • Deputy REF Lead for UoA3
  • Programme Lead: Integrated MSc and PhD in Oral Sciences

Research interests

My expertise is in atomic force microscopy (AFM) and my group’s research focuses on the development and applications of AFM to study the structure and dynamics of biological systems, particularly down to the molecular level. The AFM is a high-resolution surface profiling instrument that can achieve molecular resolution on biomolecular systems in vitro. It can also apply and measure forces to determine the mechanical properties of materials. The central aim is to develop new AFM techniques, methods and applications to biological systems to derive new understanding of function at multiple length scales from nano to micro. We use AFM to image, measure forces and manipulate material, from biomolecules through macromolecular assemblies to cells and tissues. I jointly manage the Leeds AFM facility housed in the School of Physics and Astronomy with Dr Simon Connell (Physics). This is a multi-disciplinary research facility that houses several state-of-the-art AFM systems, to facilitate collaborative research both within Leeds and further afield.

Examples of current projects my group is working on include;

  • Multiple RNA polymerase transactions on single DNA templates using simple in vitro gene models
  • Development of DNA nanostructures for biomedical applications
  • Nanomechanical response of hydrogels for regenerative medicine
  • Mechanical behaviour of engineered therapeutic microbubbles
  • Development of AFM methods for application to soft matter and biomaterial systems



  • PhD Physics (Bristol: 1995)
  • BSc (Hons) Physics (Bristol: 1990)

Professional memberships

  • Royal Microscopical Society (RMS)
  • Institute of Physics (IoP)
  • Biophysical Society

Student education

I am Programme Lead for the Integrated MSc and PhD in Oral Sciences in the School of Dentistry. I have undergraduate teaching commitments in the School of Physics and Astronomy, as a member of the Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group. 

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>
    <li><a href="//phd.leeds.ac.uk/project/222-atomic-force-microscopy-studies-of-bacterial-interactions-involved-in-dental-caries">Atomic force microscopy studies of bacterial interactions involved in dental caries</a></li> <li><a href="//phd.leeds.ac.uk/project/223-atomic-force-microscopy-studies-of-the-molecular-mechanisms-of-nested-genes-related-to-tooth-formation">Atomic force microscopy studies of the molecular mechanisms of nested genes related to tooth formation</a></li>