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Department of Physics

Staff profile

Prof Tom McLeish, FInstP, FRS

Professor in the Department of Physics
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43642
Room number: 108
Professor in the Department of Chemistry

(email at


Tom McLeish is Professor of Physics at Durham University and also chairs the Royal Society’s education committee. After a first degree in physics and PhD (1987) in polymer physics at Cambridge University, a lectureship at Sheffield University, in complex fluid physics, lead to a chair at Leeds University from 1993. 

He has since won several awards both in Europe (Weissenberg Medal) and the USA (Bingham Medal) for his work on molecular rheology of polymers, and ran a large collaborative and multidisciplinary research programme in this field from 1999-2009 co-funded by EPSRC and industry. 

His research interests include: (i) molecular rheology of polymeric fluids); (ii) macromolecular biological physics; (iii) issues of theology, ethics and history of science. He has published over 180 scientific papers and reviews, and is in addition regularly involved in science-communication with the public, including lectures and workshops on science and faith. In 2014 OUP published his book Faith and Wisdom in Science. He has been a Reader in the Anglican Church since 1993, in the dioceses of Ripon and York.

From 2008-2014 he served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Durham University. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2012 he was made Vice-President of Science by the Institute of Physics (IoP).

Research Interests

  • Soft Condensed Matter Physics

  • Biological Physics

  • Polymer Molecular Rheology

  • Theology of Science

Molecular Rheology of Entangled Polymer Fluids

My group has been persuing a multidisciplinary programme with the goal to connect the fundamental physics of entanglement at the molecular level to the emergent viscoelasticity and flow behaviour (rheology) of polymeric fluids. A particular theme has been “long-chain branched” polymers. Since 1999 this research has been framed within the large EPSRC/Industry Microscale Polymer Processing (MuPP) collaboration.

Biological Physics of Protein Dynamics, Self-assembly and Evolution

The theme here is thermal motion, statistical mechanics and noise in biological processes. With biologists and biochemists we are unravelling allosteric signalling in proteins and processes in amyloid fibril assembly. I have advocated a high-dimensional view of protein folding, and a “genotype-phenotype” model of evolutionary landscapes. This work takes place in the Durham Biophysical Sciences Institute (BSI).

Medieval Science – the Ordered Universe Project

Within the Durham Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (IMRS) we are reexamining scientific thinking in the 12th-14th centuries. Close reading of works by teams of medieval scholars and scientists gives new insights into the vital but overlooked foundations of modern science.

Theology and Science

A long-term project “Faith in Science” looks at the theological expression of ancient proto-scientific thinking, and aims to bring long-lived narratives to bear on current issues in science and technology.
May 2014 saw the publication of the book "Faith and Wisdom in Science" with OUP

Soft Matter, Complex Fluids and Biological Physics

My colleagues and I are interested in rich behaviour of structured fluids such as polymer solutions and melts, self-assembled matter, and in the physics of biological systems. My own work is mostly theoretical, but almost always in close collaboration with experiment,
and often across industry-university teams. I am Director of the Durham Centre for Soft Matter, a multidisciplinary centre encompassing physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering. My work as PVC-R at Durham supports other interests in the essential unity of the academic enterprise, and in interdisciplinary research. The history of ideas, the science-theology nexus and societal engagment with science has involved me in projects in all three faculties at Durham.

Research Groups

Department of Physics

Centre for Materials Physics

  • Theory and simulation of soft condensed matter and biological physics

Selected Publications

Journal papers: academic

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