Department of Applied Physics

Living Matter

We are a group of physicists, biologists, engineers, and chemists working with big questions at the interface between physics and biology. We develop our own experimental and analytical tools to probe the dynamics and flow in soft, living, and fluid materials.
Living Matter group picture

We are hiring!

Apply to join us as a PhD researcher or postdoc by submitting your full application through this link (deadline 15.5.2024):

Current Focus

  • Swimming dynamics of micro- to mesoscale organisms
  • Biomechanics of living materials, such as tiny plant roots and immune cells
  • Wetting and capillary phenomena

Group Leader: Prof. Matilda Backholm

Click these links for my contact details and full researcher profile. My public CV is attached below.

Short bio

  • Tenure-track Assistant Professor (2022–), Dept. of Applied Physics, Aalto University.
  • Postdoc(2015–2017) and Academy of Finland postdoc (2017–2022), Aalto University.
  • PhD in Physics, McMaster University, Canada (2015).
  • MSc in Nanoscience, Aarhus University, Denmark (2011).
  • BSc in Physics, University of Helsinki, Finland (2009).

Grants and awards (selection)

  • ERC StG (2023), Research Council of Finland Research Fellowship (2023), grant from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation (2023), the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters Väisälä Starting Grant (2023), Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher (2017).
  • Hannu Koskinen’s best presentation award at the Finnish Physics Days (2019), the Ruth and Nils-Erik Stenbäck Prize for career accomplishments in science (2017), the McMaster University School of Graduate Studies International Excellence Award (2012 and 2014).

Identifiers: ORCID, WoS, Google scholar

Social media: Twitter, LinkedIn

Research Highlights


Tiny organisms, big discoveries: How swarming shrimp could influence a new wave of ‘mesorobotics’

Aalto researcher aims to understand the complex movement of brine shrimp—a gateway to physics on an unfamiliar scale

Assistant Professor Matilda Backholm looks at shrimp via a screen connected to a microscope.

Funding granted for research into physics of microscopic plant roots

The aim is to create a new micromechanical tool to better understand how root mechanics arise from cells and how living materials like plant roots adapt to external stresses

Professor Matilda Backholm facing the camera

Professor Matilda Backholm: Between the micro and the macro

Driven by curiosity, new Department of Applied Physics professor Matilda Backholm studies the physics of the mesoscale.

Professor Matilda Backholm facing the camera

In September, 15 new Academy Researcher Fellows will start at Aalto

The Academy of Finland has granted Aalto University funding for 15 Academy Research Fellowships

A closeup of a woman in green light wearing goggles that reflect colourful pixels

When honey flows faster than water

Physicists surprised to find that in specially coated tubes, the more viscous a liquid is, the faster it flows

Droplet of honey in a superhydrophobic tube

Measuring forces of living cells and microorganisms

Force sensors to study living cells and microorganisms with extraordinary precision

A nematode worm held in a micropipette

All publications

Light-triggered Time-Programmed Self-adhesion in Low-Hysteresis Hydrogels

Henri Savolainen, Matilda Backholm, Olli Ikkala, Hang Zhang 2024 ACS Applied Polymer Materials

Probing surface wetting across multiple force, length and time scales

Dan Daniel, Maja Vuckovac, Matilda Backholm, Mika Latikka, Rahul Karyappa, Xue Qi Koh, Jaakko V.I. Timonen, Nikodem Tomczak, Robin H.A. Ras 2023 Communications Physics

Droplet slipperiness despite surface heterogeneity at molecular scale

Sakari Lepikko, Ygor Morais Jaques, Muhammad Junaid, Matilda Backholm, Jouko Lahtinen, Jaakko Julin, Ville Jokinen, Timo Sajavaara, Maria Sammalkorpi, Adam Foster, Robin Ras 2023 Nature Chemistry

Long-term stability of aerophilic metallic surfaces underwater

Alexander B. Tesler, Stefan Kolle, Lucia H. Prado, Ingo Thievessen, David Böhringer, Matilda Backholm, Bhuvaneshwari Karunakaran, Heikki A. Nurmi, Mika Latikka, Lena Fischer, Shane Stafslien, Zoran M. Cenev, Jaakko V.I. Timonen, Mark Bruns, Anca Mazare, Ulrich Lohbauer, Sannakaisa Virtanen, Ben Fabry, Patrik Schmuki, Robin H.A. Ras, Joanna Aizenberg, Wolfgang H. Goldmann 2023 Nature Materials

Force-Based Wetting Characterization of Stochastic Superhydrophobic Coatings at Nanonewton Sensitivity

Matti J. Hokkanen, Matilda Backholm, Maja Vuckovac, Quan Zhou, Robin H.A. Ras 2021 Advanced Materials

Water droplet friction and rolling dynamics on superhydrophobic surfaces

Matilda Backholm, Daniel Molpeceres, Maja Vuckovac, Heikki Nurmi, Matti Hokkanen, Ville Jokinen, Jaakko Timonen, Robin Ras 2020 Communications Materials

Ferrofluid Microdroplet Splitting for Population-Based Microfluidics and Interfacial Tensiometry

Mika Latikka, Matilda Backholm, Avijit Baidya, Alberto Ballesio, Amandine Serve, Grégory Beaune, Jaakko V.I. Timonen, Thalappil Pradeep, Robin H.A. Ras 2020 Advanced Science

Viscosity-enhanced droplet motion in sealed superhydrophobic capillaries

Maja Vuckovac, Matilda Backholm, Jaakko V.I. Timonen, Robin H.A. Ras 2020 Science Advances

Designed inorganic porous nanovector with controlled release and MRI features for safe administration of doxorubicin

Simo Näkki, Julie T.W. Wang, Jianwei Wu, Li Fan, Jimi Rantanen, Tuomo Nissinen, Mikko I. Kettunen, Matilda Backholm, Robin H.A. Ras, Khuloud T. Al-Jamal, Vesa Pekka Lehto, Wujun Xu 2019 International Journal of Pharmaceutics

Wetting of ferrofluids

Mika Latikka, Matilda Backholm, Jaakko V.I. Timonen, Robin H.A. Ras 2018 Current Opinion in Colloid and Interface Science

Absence of single critical dose for the amorphization of quartz under ion irradiation

S. Zhang, O. H. Pakarinen, M. Backholm, F. Djurabekova, K. Nordlund, J. Keinonen, T. S. Wang 2018 Journal of Physics Condensed Matter

Oscillating Ferrofluid Droplet Microrheology of Liquid-Immersed Sessile Droplets

Matilda Backholm, Maja Vuckovac, Jan Schreier, Mika Latikka, Michael Hummel, Markus B. Linder, Robin H.A. Ras 2017 Langmuir

Slippery and never wet

Matilda Backholm, Jaakko V.I. Timonen, Robin H.A. Ras 2017 Europhysics News

Partitioning of caffeine in lipid bilayers reduces membrane fluidity and increases membrane thickness

Adree Khondker, Alexander Dhaliwal, Richard J. Alsop, Jennifer Tang, Matilda Backholm, An Chang Shi, Maikel C. Rheinstädter 2017 Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics

Cross-Linked Hydrogels Formed through Diels-Alder Coupling of Furan- and Maleimide-Modified Poly(methyl vinyl ether-alt-maleic acid)

S. Alison Stewart, Matilda Backholm, Nicholas A. D. Burke, Harald D. H. Stoever 2016 Langmuir

Amyloid-beta(25-35) peptides aggregate into cross-beta sheets in unsaturated anionic lipid membranes at high peptide concentrations

J. Tang, R. J. Alsop, M. Backholm, H. Dies, A. C. Shi, M. C. Rheinstadter 2016 Soft Matter

The effects of viscosity on the undulatory swimming dynamics of C. elegans

M. Backholm, A. K. S. Kasper, R. D. Schulman, W. S. Ryu, K. Dalnoki-Veress 2015 PHYSICS OF FLUIDS

The nematode C. elegans as a complex viscoelastic fluid

Matilda Backholm, William S. Ryu, Kari Dalnoki-Veress 2015 European Physical Journal E

Capillary levelling of a cylindrical hole in a viscous film

Matilda Backholm, Michael Benzaquen, Thomas Salez, Elie Raphael, Kari Dalnoki-Veress 2014 Soft Matter

Tangling of Tethered Swimmers: Interactions between Two Nematodes

Matilda Backholm, Rafael D. Schulman, William S. Ryu, Kari Dalnoki-Veress 2014 Physical Review Letters

Direct Measurements of Drag Forces in C. elegans Crawling Locomotion

Yegor Rabets, Matilda Backholm, Kari Dalnoki-Veress, William S. Ryu 2014 Biophysical Journal

Dynamic force patterns of an undulatory microswimmer

Rafael D. Schulman, Matilda Backholm, William S. Ryu, Kari Dalnoki-Veress 2014 Physical Review E

Undulatory microswimming near solid boundaries

R. D. Schulman, M. Backholm, W. S. Ryu, K. Dalnoki-Veress 2014 PHYSICS OF FLUIDS

Viscoelastic properties of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a self-similar, shear-thinning worm

Matilda Backholm, William S. Ryu, Kari Dalnoki-Veress 2013 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Relaxation and intermediate asymptotics of a rectangular trench in a viscous film

Oliver Baeumchen, Michael Benzaquen, Thomas Salez, Joshua D. McGraw, Matilda Backholm, Paul Fowler, Elie Raphael, Kari Dalnoki-Veress 2013 Physical Review E

Roughness of glancing angle deposited titanium thin films: an experimental and computational study

Matilda Backholm, Morten Foss, Kai Nordlund 2012 Nanotechnology

Amorphization of alpha-quartz and comparative study of defects in amorphized quartz and Si nanocrystals embedded in amorphous silica

Flyura Djurabekova, Matilda Backholm, Marie Backman, Olli H. Pakarinen, Juhani Keinonen, Kai Nordlund, Tzu-Ray Shan, Bryce D. Devine, Susan B. Sinnott 2010 NUCLEAR INSTRUMENTS AND METHODS IN PHYSICS RESEARCH SECTION B: BEAM INTERACTIONS WITH MATERIALS AND ATOMS
More information on our research in the Aalto research portal.
Research portal
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