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Mark Leake
Professor Anniversary Chair of Biological Physics



MA Natural Sciences (Cantab), MSc Medical Physics (Surrey), MA (Oxon), PhD Biophysics (London), FInstP, FRMS, FRSB.

Summary of expertise

  • Biological physics
  • Single-molecule biophysics
  • Biophotonics/bespoke optical microscopy
  • Superreolution in cellulo imaging

Previous posts

  • 2007-2012 Royal Society University Research Fellow,Oxford University,UK
  • 2007-2012 Senior Research Fellow and Principal Investigator in Systems Biology,Oxford University,UK
  • 2008-2011 Hertford CollegeOxfordScience Research Fellowship
  • 2007-2009 Principal Investigator of the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration in Bionanotechnology,Oxford University,UK.
  • 2006-2007 Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow,Oxford University,UK
  • 2003-2006 Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Research Fellow in Bionanotechnology,Oxford University,UK
  • 2002-2003 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinshaft Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ruprect-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Germany.
  • 2001-2002 Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biological Physics,Oxford University,UK.


  • European Biophysical Societies Association (EBSA), Young Investigator Finalist, 2011
  • Young Investigator Award British Biophysical Society, 2010
  • Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society (FRMS), 2008
  • HertfordCollegeScience Research Fellowship, 2008
  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship, for independent research, 2007
  • Daiwa Adrian Anglo-Japanese Prize. Co-author for bacterial motor research, 2007
  • Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship for independent research, 2006

University roles

  • Anniversary Chair of Biological Physics (between Physics and Biology Depts)
  • Yorklead PI in White Rose Consortium doctoral training student network in ‘Single-molecule methods’



Coordinator - Physics of Life Group

I am a physicist by training but now address challenging biophysical and biochemical questions in a range of biological processes. Following initial undergraduate studies as a ‘natsci’ in the University of Cambridge in 1990-93, I gained my PhD in the biophysics of muscle proteins using optical tweezers techniques in King’s College London, with subsequent postdoctoral positions in Oxford and Heidelberg. I later gained independence as a Royal Society University Research Fellow in Oxford, leading research themes in single-molecule cellular biophysics and molecular scale optical proteomics, prior to becoming the new Anniversary Chair of Biological Physics at the University of York in 2013. I was the Director Founder of the Biological Physical Sciences Institute and am now the Coordinator of the Physics of Life Group.

General themes of my research involve (i) developing new biophysical instrumentation for addressing open biological questions, and (ii) applying these coupled to molecular biology and biochemical approaches to investigating questions concerning single molecules under physiologically relevant environments. I developed an exceptional cluster of biophysical techniques enabling the imaging and manipulation of single molecules with extraordinary control. This scientific success is founded on the single-molecule fluorescence microscopy with molecular and cellular manipulation and precision microfluidics technology. My team is in an ideal position to take the leap from studying single molecules to investigating entire complex biological processes at much higher length scales of cells and tissues.

For full details of my teams research check out our full publications – highlights include adding insight into the behaviour of the flagellar motor of bacteria [1,2], DNA replication, repair and remodelling [3-6], protein transport, oxidative phosphorylation, signal transduction, transcription and gene regulation [7], antibiotic tolerance and liquid-liquid phase condensates [8] and photosynthesis in viral-like nanomachines [9]. These advances have been underpinned by innovative tools and techniques enabling robust quantification of molecular and cellular properties: the spatiotemporal dynamics of functional molecular machines, their architecture and mechanical properties, the nature of their functional interactions, and their level of expression on a live cell-by-cell basis. We also have exciting in vitro based projects emerging in DNA-protein interactions using a combination of AFM imaging, single-molecule FRET, tethered particle motion and an exciting new magneto-optical tweezers super-resolution imaging tool [10].

1. Nature 437:916 (2005) 2. Nature 443:355 (2006)3. Science 328:498 (2010) 4. Science 338:528 (2012) 5. Nucleic Acids Research 10:210 (2019)6.  Nucleic Acids Research, Syeda & Wollman et al, in press (2019)7.eLife 6:e27451 (2017)  8.Mol Cell 73:1439. Plant Cell, Sun & Wollman et al, in press (2019)10.Photonics 2:758 (2015)


  • Development of millisecond 3D super-resolution imaging with photoblinking
  • Designing and applying bio-molecular force transduction tools of laser/magnetic tweezers combined with nanoscale fluorescence imaging
  • Probing cellular DNA replication/segregation using single-molecule biophysics
  • Investigating molecular-level signal transduction in living cells
  • Investigating DNA repair and remodelling processes
  • Studying cell membrane biophysics at the nanoscale
  • Probing cancer physics through imaging membrane receptors
  • Studying infection and immunity through chemokines and synapses
  • Probing liquid-liquid phase condensation in antibiotic tolerance and epigenetics
  • Investigating live-cell molecular bio-energetics
  • Developing optical tools to study emergent biological structures, including biofilms

Research group(s)

Physics of Life Group

External activities


National/International Committee Roles

  • Physics of Life EPSRCUKnetwork biological physics steering panel member
  • IoP Biological Physics Group committee member
  • British Biophysics Society (BBS) steering panel member
  • Light Microscopy committee member of the Royal Microscopical Society
  • Royal Society Research Grants Scheme Biological Sciences Board
  • Royal Society International Exchange Scheme Review Committee

‌‌‌Mark Leake

Department of Physics
University of York
YO10 5DD
Tel: +44 (0)1904 322697
Fax: +44 (0)1904 322214
Room: P/C102