Dr Thomas Michaels




Subject areas



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Dr Michaels was elected as Research Fellow in Physics in 2016. He studied Physics and Mathematics as an undergraduate at ETH Zürich. He then obtained his PhD in Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge working with Tuomas Knowles on aspects of the statistical and continuum mechanics of amyloid fibril formation, a process of key relevance due to its connection with pathologies such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. After his PhD, Dr Michaels joined the group of L. Mahadevan in the Applied Mathematics Department at Harvard University working on problems at the interface between Physics and Biology.


2010 Bachelor of Science in Physics, ETH Zurich

2012 Master of Science in Physics, ETH Zurich

2012 Master of Science in Mathematics, ETH Zurich

2016 PhD in Physical Chemistry with Prof. Tuomas Knowles, University of Cambridge

2016- Postdoctoral research in Applied Mathematics with Prof L Mahadevan, Harvard University

2016- Junior Research Fellow in Physics, Peterhouse, University of Cambridge


Research interests

Dr Michaels' research interests are centered around the development and application of novel quantitative approaches for studying complex biomolecular self-assembly phenomena across multiple length- and timescales (from the molecular to the organism scale), and, through this programme, to understand the characteristics of a range of diseases from their microscopic origins to their macroscopic manifestations. To address these questions, Dr Michaels' research exploits a combination of approaches rooted in statistical mechanics, soft matter physics, physical chemistry and applied mathematics, in close collaboration with experimentalists.


Selected publications

1) T.C.T. Michaels, M.M.J. Bellaiche, M.F. Hagan, and T.P.J. Knowles, “Kinetic constraints on self-assembly into closed supramolecular structures”, Scientific Reports 7 (2017).

2) T.C.T. Michaels, S.I.A. Cohen, M. Vendruscolo, C.M. Dobson, and T.P.J. Knowles, “Hamiltonian dynamics of protein filament formation”, Physical Review Letters 116, 038101 (2016). [link: http://www- vendruscolo.ch.cam.ac.uk/michaels2016prl.pdf]

3) T.C.T. Michaels, A.J. Dear, J.B. Kirkegaard, K.L. Saar, D.A. Weitz, and T.P.J. Knowles, “Fluctuations in linear protein self-assembly”, Physical Review Letters 116, 258103 (2016). [link:


4) A. Levin*, T.C.T. Michaels*, L. Adler-Abramovich, T.O. Mason, T.

Müller, L. Mahadevan, E. Gazit, and T.P.J. Knowles, “Elastic instability-mediated actuation by a supra-molecular polymer”, Nature Physics 12, 926 (2016) (* contributed equally). [link:


5) P. Arosio, T.C.T. Michaels, S. Linse, C. Mansson, C. Emanuelsson, J.

Presto, J. Johansson, M. Vendruscolo, C.M. Dobson, and T.P.J. Knowles, “Kinetic analysis reveals the diversity of microscopic mechanisms through which molecular chaperones suppress amyloid formation”, Nature Communications 7, 10948 (2016). [link:


6) A. Saric*, T.C.T. Michaels*, A. Zaccone, T.P.J. Knowles, and D.

Frenkel, “Kinetics of spontaneous filament nucleation via oligomers: Insights from theory and simulation”, The Journal of Chemical Physics 145, 211926 (2016) (* contributed equally). [link: