Meredith Betterton
Physics • Biofrontiers Institute


MSE Areas: Biophysics, biomaterials, soft matter physics, liquid crystals, active matter, active liquid-crystalline materials

My research is in biophysics, active biological materials, and soft condensed-matter physics. The overarching goal of my work is to improve our understanding of living systems and biologically- inspired artificial systems through the integration of quantitative experiments and physical theory. I’m currently interested in self-assembly of liquid-crystalline materials and in active soft matter. Current projects include work on the theory, simulation, and materials properties of “flocking”, the collective motion of large numbers of organisms or biomolecules. This ubiquitous biological phenomenon occurs on the organism scale (flocks of birds, schools of fish), the cellular scale (collections of swimming bacteria or migration of cells in tissues) and the subcellular scale (motion of microtubule and actin filaments in the cellular cytoskeleton). One type of flocking of particular interest is active liquid-crystalline materials inspired by microtubule-motor assemblies and the mitotic spindle. I’m also interested in the coupling of equilibrium aggregation and liquid-crystalline order.

Selected Publications and Accomplishments

Tatiana Kuriabova, M.D. Betterton and Matthew A. Glaser, “Linear aggregation and liquid-crystalline order: comparison of Monte Carlo simulation and analytic theory”, Journal of Materials Chemistry 20, pp. 10366–10383 (2010).  Selected as a Hot Article and inside cover article by the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

L.E. Hough, Anne Schwabe, Matthew A. Glaser, J. Richard McIntosh and M.D.Betterton, “Microtubule depolymerization by the kinesin-8 motor Kip 3p: a mathematical model”, Biophysical Journal 96, pp. 3050–3064 (2009)

NSF CAREER Award, 2009–2014