Welcome to the Universality in Biology Group website. We are based in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London. We employ tools of statistical mechanics, soft condensed matter physics, applied mathematics, and computation methods to study universal behaviour in biological systems. Our research expands the horizons of physics and biology by studying biological problems that require the development of novel physics. We enjoy close collaborations with biologists (Department of Life Sciences) and bioengineers (Department of Bioengineering) at Imperial College, and biologists (Dunn School of Pathology) at the University of Oxford. Specific biological processes that we are interested in include protein amyloid self-assembly, cytoplasmic pattern formation, tissue homeostasis, and collective behaviour in living organisms.


Position available

We currently have a fully funded (UK/EU students) PhD position in theoretical biophysics available to start in October 2020 or later. Further details can be found here. The application deadline is July 10, 2020.


Recent conference organisation

Organiser of the Fluids Summer School 2018: 'Current topics in active fluids: Theory and Experiments' held at Imperial College London on July 16-20, 2018 [Poster]
[Lecture notes on fluctuating hydrodynamics of passive and active fluids]

Co-organiser of Field theories come to Life held at Imperial College London on April 9, 2018

Organiser of the CoSyDy meeting on 'Non-equilibrium polymer dynamics' held at Imperial College London on 26 June, 2017

News and Views
C.F. Lee (2020)
Complex condensations get cells organized. Nature 581, 144

Recent reviews
C.A. Weber, D. Zwicker, F. Jülicher and C.F. Lee (2019)
Physics of Active Emulsions. Reports of Progress in Physics 82, 064601. E-print: arXiv:1806.09552
C.F. Lee and J.D. Wurtz (2019)
Novel physics arising from phase transitions in biology. Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 52, 023001. E-print: arXiv:1809.11117.
Featured in the Thesis section at Nature Physics.
L. Hong, C.F. Lee and Y.J. Huang (2017)
Statistical Mechanics and Kinetics of Amyloid Fibrillation. Biophysics and biochemistry of protein aggregation, edited by J.-M. Yuan and H.-X. Zhou (World Scientific), chapter 4; E-print: arxiv:1609.01569.



Selected recent papers
L. Pytowski, C.F. Lee, A.C. Foley, D.J. Vaux and L. Jean (2020)
Liquid–liquid phase separation of type II diabetes associated IAPP initiates hydrogelation and aggregation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 117 12050.
L. Chen, C.F. Lee and J. Toner
Moving, reproducing, and dying beyond Flatland: Malthusian flocks in dimensions d > 2. E-print: arXiv:2001.01300
A. Cairoli and C.F. Lee
Hydrodynamics of Active Lévy Matter. E-print: arXiv:1903.07565
D. Nesbitt, G. Pruessner and C.F. Lee
Uncovering novel phase transitions in dense dry polar active fluids using a lattice Boltzmann method. E-print: arXiv:1902.00530
B. Partridge and C.F. Lee (2019)
Critical motility-induced phase separation belongs to the Ising universality class. Physical Review Letters 123, 068002. E-print: arXiv:1810.06112
C.F. Lee (2018)
Equilibrium kinetics of self-assembling, semi-flexible polymers. Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter 30 315102. E-print:
arXiv:1709.04684
J.D. Wurtz and C.F. Lee (2018)
Stress granule formation via ATP depletion-triggered phase separation. New Journal of Physics 20 045008. E-print: arXiv:1708.05697
J.D. Wurtz and C.F. Lee (2018)
Chemical reaction-controlled phase separated drops: Formation, size selection, and coarsening. Physical Review Letters 120, 078102. E-print:
arXiv:1707.08433
C.F. Lee (2017)
Interface stability, interface fluctuations, and the Gibbs-Thomson relation in motility-induced phase separations. Soft Matter 13, 376-385. E-print: arxiv:1503.08674.
L. Chen, C.F. Lee and J. Toner (2016)
Surprising mappings of 2D polar active fluids to 2D soap and 1D sandblasting. Nature Communications 7, 12215.
E-print: arxiv:1601.01924.