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Chemical reaction to mechanical motion: towards the physio-chemical model of heart cells.

   Department of Biomedical Engineering

About the Project

Living systems are complex, and are based on the basic building blocks of genes, proteins, chemical reactions, and physical forces. Yet, out of this complexity, with remarkable robustness and precision, cells orchestrate the cooperative action of thousands of specific molecular reactions and interactions to carry out mechanical tasks. For example, 100 billion heart cells can synchronise their oscillation to generate a single pulse. 

To understand the fundamental principles that govern cooperative processes in living systems, it is of critical importance to develop an understanding of the underlying physio-chemical processes, because living systems are also subject to laws in physical systems. Such inherently non-equilibrium processes suggest approaches for developing biomimetic active materials which can transform chemical energy to mechanical energy. Being actively driven, these materials can exhibit properties such as autonomous motility and self-organised beating. 

The aim of this project is to understand the fundamental microscopic mechanism of the transformation from chemical to mechanical reactions, and develop a physio-chemical model to study the mechanism of the synchronisation in relevant biological systems.  

We will combine the following three approaches: 

1. Perform physical chemical experiments with active gel beads immersed in an electrolyte solution and characterize the amplitude and frequency of the active gel beads. 

2. Develop a hybrid molecular dynamics/Monte Carlo (MD/MC) simulation method to understand the microscopic mechanisms of the interplay between osmotic pressure and dynamical behaviour of active gels. 

3. Develop the physio-chemical model of relevant biological systems, using the obtained microscopic understanding from 1) and 2). 

Such chemo-mechanical systems to convert chemical oscillation of the reaction to mechanical changes in gels can lead to development of smart biomimetic gels for drug transportation and mechanical assistance purposes. 

To bridge the gap between non-living and living systems, Dr Hayashi’s research spans the areas of complex physical systems, behavioural science and neuroscience, with specific expertise in: 1) non-equilibrium dynamics governing adaptive behaviour in physical and living systems; 2) neural/behavioural mechanisms of the closed brain-body loop for various living systems; and 3) mathematical models of thermodynamics underpinning nonequilibrium phenomena. Techniques include physio-chemical experiments, microbiological experiments, machine learning, electroencephalogram (EEG) measurement, and mathematical modelling. 

Dr Hayashi’s lab website is; 

School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading: 

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.   

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet. Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces. 

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities. 

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills. 

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures. We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically. 


Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent) in chemistry, physical chemistry, and physics or a strongly-related discipline. Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. 

How to apply: 

Submit an application for a PhD in Biomedical engineering at

Further information: 


Dr. Yoshikatsu Hayashi, email:  

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


Please see Dr Hayashi's profile:

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