Prof Wilson C K Poon

Professor Wilson Poon is internationally known for his work using very well characterised 'model' colloids to study phenomena that are ubiquitous across condensed matter and statistical physics, particularly the structure and dynamics of arrested states such as glasses and gels. Understanding such states is a grand challenge facing 21st century physics; at the same time, they occur widely in a very large range of industrial processes and products. To exploit the latter connections, Wilson set up the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership (ECFP) a few years ago to coordinate industrial consultancy. ECFP clients now span many sectors, from food and confectionaries through personal care to specialty and agri-chemicals. 

Funded initially by an EPSRC Senior Research Fellowship, and now continuing under an European Research Council Advanced Grant and an EPSRC Programme Grant, Wilson also works on the physics of active particles. These colloids are intrinsically non-equilibrium, in that they continually transduce free energy from their surroundings to engage in activities such as growth (in size and number) and self propulsion (i.e. they are micro-swimmers). Wilson's group studies both active particles in the form of bacteria as well as synthetic colloidal swimmers. Their long-term goal is to discover and understand new modes of collective behaviour in active particle systems, both on their own, and in the company of passive particles. The results should provide impetus for theory development in a frontier area of statistical mechanics, lead to new material designs, and throw light on selected biological phenomena (such as the growth of biofilms).