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Carl Whitfield

Postdoctoral Research Assistant in Theoretical Physics


I am working under the guidance of Dr. Gareth Alexander in the Department for Complexity Science studying the Topology of Soft Matter systems, particularly Liquid Crystals.

I completed both my Undergraduate and PhD qualifications at the University of Sheffield. I completed my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Rhoda Hawkins producing a thesis titled "Modelling Spontaneous Motion and Deformation in Active Droplets". My undergraduate degree was an MPhys qualification in Physics with Mathematics masters project was working on "Quantum Weak Measurements" with Dr. Pieter Kok.

A copy of my academic CV can be downloaded here: (PDF Document)

Research Interests:

Currently I am studying cholesteric liquid crystals and chiral active matter and considering applications of these systems to long range chiral phenomena in biological systems.

Additionally, I am working on knotted textures in liquid crystals and how to simulate these more effectively. Such textures open up possibilities for materials with interesting new electronic and optical properties. This knot-based research ties in (pun intended) with the broader resurgence of interest in knots in other branches of physics, such as hydrodynamics, quantum mechanics and biological physics, as well as providing realisable physical examples of complex mathematical ideas.

I intend to use some of my time to make some (hopefully) fun javascript based simulations and animations that can be run directly in your browser. I hope that these can be useful tools to elucidate some interesting snippets of research from the world of soft matter physics. Links to these should appear in the bar at the top of the page.

My PhD research focused on using a continuum active soft matter model of the cell cytoskeleton, in order to understand physical mechanisms behind such behaviours as cell motility and polarisation. The model assumes that the cytoskeleton can be modelled as a polar liquid crystal (a collection of rod-shaped molecules with directional ordering but no spatial ordering), driven out of equilibrium by the forces exerted on them from motor proteins which convert chemical energy into work. In particular we consider confining this active liquid crystal to a droplet, and we find that interesting steady states are observed due to the coupling between the droplet boundary and the orientation of the rods. We worked in close collaboration with Prof. Davide Marenduzzo's group in Edinburgh.

General Topics of Interest:
Active matter
Soft condensed matter
Biological physics
Computational physics
Fluid mechanics


Instabilities, motion and deformation of active fluid droplets. (arXiv)
C. A. Whitfield and R. J. Hawkins
Submitted, 2016
Immersed Boundary Simulations of Active Fluid Droplets. (link)
C. A. Whitfield and R. J. Hawkins
PLOS One, 2016, 11(9): e0162474
Spontaneous motility of passive emulsion droplets in polar active gels. (link)
G. De Magistris, A. Tiribocchi, C. A. Whitfield, R. J. Hawkins, M. E. Cates and D. Marenduzzo
Soft Matter, 2014, 10, 7826-7837
Active polar fluid flow in finite droplets. (link)
C. A. Whitfield, D. Marenduzzo, R. Voituriez and R. J. Hawkins
EPJ E, 2014, 37:8

Carl Whitfield

Room PS0.014
Department of Physics
University of Warwick
Gibbet Hill Road
Coventry, UK


Tel: (+44) 024 761 50942