Welcome to the Mathijssen Lab @ UPenn!

Exploring the physics of life
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NEWS: Paper published in Nature Communications:

Active carpets drive non-equilibrium diffusion and enhanced molecular fluxes

Francisca Guzmán-Lastra, Hartmut Löwen, Arnold J. T. M. Mathijssen

Fick’s laws describe the essential physics of diffusion, but it is challenging to extend them to systems out of equilibrium. The authors derive the diffusivity of particles near active carpets – a surface covered with hydrodynamic actuators, which provides a framework for transport in living matter.

Our mission

The Mathijssen lab is interested in exploring the physics of life: We combine experiments and theory across the disciplines of biophysics, soft matter, fluid and statistical mechanics.

Our main goals are to understand the physics of pathogens, and the collective functionality of intelligent active matter (out of equilibrium). More generally, we also aim to bridge multi-scale biology with the physics of solids, fluids and information. Recent themes include hydrodynamic communication, pathogen clearance in the airways, tuning upstream swimming of microrobots, and bacterial contamination dynamics.

These questions are both fundamental in nature (e.g. How can an intelligent system arise from the collective dynamics of its basic components?) and directly applied to our society (e.g. What is the probability of SARS-CoV-2 transmission within a food supply chain?). Our enthusiasm for research is driven by curiosity and the need for solutions that connect science with the challenges of the world we live in. Besides research, we like organising community events, lab visits and science hikes. 


Happening now:
Coming up:
Recent events:
  • (Sep 2020) Congratulations to Alexander Sprenger et al. for being highlighted on the cover of the European Physics Journal E for our work on flows in surfactant-covered drops.
  • (Aug 2020) We got our first grant of $1 million to study COVID-19 in the US meat supply chain, in collaboration with Texas A&M University. Read the press release and the Reuters news article here.
  • (Jul 2020) Arnold will join the University of Pennsylvania as Assistant Professor. A warm welcome to all the other new Faculty Members in the School of Arts & Sciences!

Selected Publications

  • Mathijssen AJTM, Culver J, Bhamla MS, Prakash M, “Collective intercellular communication through ultra-fast hydrodynamic trigger waves”, Nature 571: 560 (2019) [10.1038/s41586-019-1387-9] [download PDF]
  • Ramirez-San Juan GR, Mathijssen AJTM, He M, Jan L, Marshall WF, Prakash M, “Multi-scale spatial heterogeneity enhances particle clearance in airway ciliary arrays”, Nature Physics (2020) [10.1038/s41567-020-0923-8] [download PDF]
  • Mathijssen AJTM, Figueroa-Morales N, Junot G, Lindner A, Clement E, Zöttl A, “Oscillatory surface rheotaxis of swimming E. coli bacteria”, Nature Communications 10: 3434 (2019) [10.1038/s41467-019-11360-0] [download PDF]
  • Mathijssen AJTM, Guzman-Lastra F, Kaiser A, Löwen H, “Nutrient transport by microbial active carpets”, Physical Review Letters 121: 248101 (2018) [10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.248101] [download PDF]

Visit this page for a full publication list.

Join our team

Scientific innovation depends on the diversity of our team, in my opinion. We welcome people regardless of who they are and where they come from. We support each other’s differences, because everyone has unique talents.

Applications are invited from a broad range of academic backgrounds. We are looking for undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers interested in (learning) the fields of biological physics, soft matter, physical biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and data science. Both experimental and theoretical or computational research positions are currently available: Click here to find out more and join us!


“Good nature and good sense must ever join;

To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

— An essay on criticism, Alexander Pope (1688-1744)