Timon Idema

Assistant professor in theoretical physics
Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

In September 2012 I moved to the TU Delft, starting a new group in theoretical biophysics. You can find my new group website here. You will be redirected there in 10 seconds.


Biophysics as a whole is science facing an enormous and at the same time breathtaking task: to unravel the mechanisms that govern life itself. We want to find the physical processes that make the biological ones possible (and therefore inevitable), which may of course in turn lead to new physics. To do this we use the time-honoured way of the physicist by translating observations into mathematical models, which means we can invoke not only the power of physics but that of mathematics as well. The combination of these three fields is a challenge in itself, and moreover gives possibilities that are completely beyond reach if one of them is left out. Examples from my work include the study of early embryo development, where we use protein staining, advanced image analysis, and tools from the field of excitable media to understand how local processes translate into global responses, which help cells differentiate and form complex organisms. Another example is the behavior of molecular motors, which are stochastic in nature and need to work collectively to produce reliable operations in the cell. Yet another example where the combination of mathematics, physics and biology is crucial is the study of membranes. Biologically membranes act as barriers, reaction platforms and protein carriers. Physics provides us with the basic rules that govern all membranes, regardless of their specifics. In mathematics the complete field of differentail geometry studies the properties of exactly these kind of objects. This approach - combining the resources of fields previously strictly separated - is what makes biophysics such an inspiring and ever amazing field to work in.