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Dr Neil H Thomson

Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group

Contact details

Room: 8.50d
Tel: +44 (0)113 3437289
Email: n.h.thomson @


Biological Physics
Atomic force microscopy (AFM)
Scanning probe microscopy (SPM)
DNA Nanostructures and DNA Origami

Research interests

Our group concentrates on the development and application of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to study the structure and dynamics of biological systems, from single molecules to whole cells. AFM is a versatile technique that we use to image, measure forces and manipulate material, down to the nanoscale. Complementary techniques in biochemistry, molecular biology, biophysics and surface science are used whenever possible to enhance interpretation and understanding of the research goal. Our current areas of interest include;
- Development of dynamic atomic force microscopy (AFM)
- Deciphering molecular processes involved in DNA transcription and gene regulation
- DNA bionanotechnology and DNA origami
- Engineered therapeutic microbubbles for localised drug delivery
- Collagen and hydrogel nanomechanics
- Surface physical chemistry of mica
- Wetting phenomena on complex surfaces

Useful links

MNP group web-pages
Google Scholar Citations (Thomson)
School of Dentistry webpage (Thomson)
LENNF - Leeds Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research Equipment Facility


Costa L, Li-Destri G, Pontoni D, Konovalov O, Thomson NH Liquid–Liquid Interfacial Imaging Using Atomic Force Microscopy Advanced Materials Interfaces 4 -, 2017
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Chammas O, Bonass WA, Thomson NH Effect of heparin and heparan sulphate on open promoter complex formation for a simple tandem gene model using ex situ atomic force microscopy Methods 120 91-102, 2017
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Costa L, Li-Destri G, Thomson NH, Konovalov O, Pontoni D Real Space Imaging of Nanoparticle Assembly at Liquid-Liquid Interfaces with Nanoscale Resolution. Nano Letters 16 5463-5468, 2016
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Christenson HK, Thomson NH The nature of the air-cleaved mica surface Surface Science Reports 71 367-390, 2016
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Tronci G, Grant CA, Thomson NH, Russell SJ, Wood DJ Influence of 4-vinylbenzylation on the rheological and swelling properties of photo activated collagen hydrogels MRS Advances 1 533-538, 2016
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Tronci G, Grant CA, Thomson NH, Russell SJ, Wood DJ Multi-scale mechanical characterization of highly swollen photo-activated collagen hydrogels Journal of the Royal Society Interface 12 -, 2015
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Thomson NH, Santos S, Mitchenall LA, Stuchinskaya T, Taylor JA, Maxwell A DNA G-segment bending is not the sole determinant of topology simplification by type II DNA topoisomerases Scientific Reports 4 -, 2014
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Abou-Saleh RH, Swain M, Evans SD, Thomson NH Poly(ethylene glycol) lipid-shelled microbubbles: abundance, stability, and mechanical properties Langmuir 30 5557-5563, 2014
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Tang T-C, Amadei CA, Thomson NH, Chiesa M Ion exchange and DNA molecular dip sticks: studying the nanoscale surface wetting of muscovite mica Journal of Physical Chemistry C 118 4695-4701, 2014
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Billingsley DJ, Lee AJ, Johansson NAB, Walton A, Stanger L, Crampton N, Bonass WA, Thomson NH Patchiness of ion-exchanged mica revealed by DNA binding dynamics at short length scales Nanotechnology 25 -, 2014
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Gooch A, Murphy NS, Thomson NH, Wilson AJ Side-chain supramolecular polymers employing conformer independent triple hydrogen bonding arrays Macromolecules 46 9634-9641, 2013
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Santos S, Barcons V, Christenson HK, Billingsley DJ, Bonass WA, Font J, Thomson NH Stability, resolution, and ultra-low wear amplitude modulation atomic force microscopy of DNA: Small amplitude small set-point imaging Applied Physics Letters 103 -, 2013
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Chammas O, Billingsley DJ, Bonass WA, Thomson NH Single-stranded DNA loops as fiducial markers for exploring DNA-protein interactions in single molecule imaging. Methods 60 122-130, 2013
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Abou-Saleh RH, Peyman SA, Critchley K, Evans SD, Thomson NH Nanomechanics of lipid encapsulated microbubbles with functional coatings. Langmuir 29 4096-4103, 2013
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Thomson NH, Billingsley DJ, Chammas O, Crampton N, Kirkham J, Bonass WA Multiple RNA Polymerase Transactions on Single DNA Templates, 2013

Santos S, Billingsley D, Thomson N Atomic force microscopy imaging of macromolecular complexes Methods in Molecular Biology 950 315-341, 2013
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Chiesa M, Gadelrab KR, Verdaguer A, Segura JJ, Barcons V, Thomson NH, Phillips MA, Stefancich M, Santos S Energy dissipation in the presence of sub-harmonic excitation in dynamic atomic force microscopy EPL 99 -, 2012
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Chiesa M, Gadelrab K, Stefancich M, Armstrong P, Li G, Souier T, Thomson NH, Barcons V, Font J, Verdaguer A, Phillips MA, Santos S Investigation of nanoscale interactions by means of subharmonic excitation Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 3 2125-2129, 2012
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Billingsley DJ, Crampton N, Kirkham J, Thomson NH, Bonass WA Single-stranded loops as end-label polarity markers for double-stranded linear DNA templates in atomic force microscopy. Nucleic Acids Res 40 e99-, 2012
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Santos S, Guang L, Souier T, Gadelrab K, Chiesa M, Thomson NH A method to provide rapid in situ determination of tip radius in dynamic atomic force microscopy. Rev Sci Instrum 83 043707-, 2012
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Santos S, Stefancich M, Hernandez H, Chiesa M, Thomson NH Hydrophilicity of a single DNA molecule Journal of Physical Chemistry C 116 2807-2818, 2012
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Billingsley DJ, Bonass WA, Crampton N, Kirkham J, Thomson NH Single-molecule studies of DNA transcription using atomic force microscopy. Phys Biol 9 021001-, 2012
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Font J, Santos S, Barcons V, Thomson NH, Verdaguer A, Chiesa M Spatial horizons in amplitude and frequency modulation atomic force microscopy NANOSCALE 4 2463-2469, 2012

Grant CA, Phillips MA, Thomson NH Dynamic mechanical analysis of collagen fibrils at the nanoscale JOURNAL OF THE MECHANICAL BEHAVIOR OF BIOMEDICAL MATERIALS 5 165-170, 2012

Santos S, Verdaguer A, Souier T, Thomson NH, Chiesa M Measuring the true height of water films on surfaces NANOTECHNOLOGY 22 -, 2011

Santos S, Barcons V, Verdaguer A, Font J, Thomson NH, Chiesa M How localized are energy dissipation processes in nanoscale interactions? NANOTECHNOLOGY 22 -, 2011

Grant CA, Thomson NH, Savage MD, Woon HW, Greig D Surface characterisation and biomechanical analysis of the sclera by atomic force microscopy. J Mech Behav Biomed Mater 4 535-540, 2011
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Teoh CL, Pham CLL, Todorova N, Hung A, Lincoln CN, Lees E, Lam YH, Binger KJ, Thomson NH, Radford SE, Smith TA, Muller SA, Engel A, Griffin MDW, Yarovsky I, Gooley PR, Howlett GJ A Structural Model for Apolipoprotein C-II Amyloid Fibrils: Experimental Characterization and Molecular Dynamics Simulations J MOL BIOL 405 1246-1266, 2011

Santos S, Thomson NH Energy dissipation in a dynamic nanoscale contact APPL PHYS LETT 98 -, 2011

Santos S, Thomson NH High resolution imaging of immunoglobulin G antibodies and other biomolecules using amplitude modulation atomic force microscopy in air. Methods Mol Biol 736 61-79, 2011
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Santos S, Barcons V, Christenson HK, Font J, Thomson NH The intrinsic resolution limit in the atomic force microscope: implications for heights of nano-scale features. PLoS One 6 e23821-, 2011
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Billingsley DJ, Kirkham J, Bonass WA, Thomson NH Atomic force microscopy of DNA at high humidity: irreversible conformational switching of supercoiled molecules. Phys Chem Chem Phys 12 14727-14734, 2010
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Santos S, Barcons V, Font J, Thomson NH Cantilever dynamics in amplitude modulation AFM: continuous and discontinuous transitions J PHYS D APPL PHYS 43 -, 2010

Santos S, Barcons V, Font J, Thomson NH Bi-stability of amplitude modulation AFM in air: deterministic and stochastic outcomes for imaging biomolecular systems. Nanotechnology 21 225710-, 2010
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Kurk T, Adams DG, Connell SD, Thomson NH Three-channel false colour AFM images for improved interpretation of complex surfaces: a study of filamentous cyanobacteria. Ultramicroscopy 110 718-722, 2010
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Turner RD, Thomson NH, Kirkham J, Devine D Improvement of the pore trapping method to immobilize vital coccoid bacteria for high-resolution AFM: a study of Staphylococcus aureus J MICROSC-OXFORD 238 102-110, 2010

Machon C, Lynch G, Thomson N, Scott D, Thomas C, Soultanas P RepD-mediated recruitment of PcrA helicase at the Staphylococcus aureus pC221 plasmid replication origin, oriD. Nucleic Acids Research 38 1874-1888, 2010
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Grant CA, Brockwell DJ, Radford SE, Thomson NH Tuning the elastic modulus of hydrated collagen fibrils. Biophys J 97 2985-2992, 2009
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Thomson N, Tatsuyama-Kurk T, Whalley D, Connell S, Adams D Cell wall ultrastructure and gliding motility in Oscillatoria, 2009

Turner RD, Kirkham J, Devine D, Thomson NH Second harmonic atomic force microscopy of living Staphylococcus aureus bacteria APPL PHYS LETT 94 -, 2009

Grant CA, Brockwell DJ, Radford SE, Thomson NH Effects of hydration on the mechanical response of individual collagen fibrils Applied Physics Letters 92 pp.233902-, 2008

Thomson NH, Crampton N, Bonass WA, Kirkham J, Rivetti C RNA polymerase collisions in the atomic force microscope, 2007

Thomson NH Atomic Force Microscopy of DNA Structure and Interactions APPLIED SCANNING PROBE METHODS VI: CHARACTERIZATION 127-164, 2007

Crampton N, Bonass WA, Kirkham J, Rivetti C, Thomson NH Collision events between RNA polymerases in convergent transcription studied by atomic force microscopy Nucleic Acids Research 34 pp.5416–5425-, 2006
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Crampton N, Bonass WA, Kirkham J, Thomson NH Studying silane mobility on hydrated mica using ambient AFM. Ultramicroscopy 106 765-770, 2006
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Crampton N, Thomson NH, Kirkham J, Gibson CW, Bonass WA Imaging RNA polymerase–amelogenin gene complexes with single molecule resolution using atomic force microscopy European Journal of Oral Sciences 114 133-138, 2006
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Gosal WS, Myers SL, Radford SE, Thomson NH Amyloid Under the Atomic Force Microscope Protein and Peptide Letters 13 261-270, 2006

Myers SL, Thomson NH, Radford SE, Ashcroft AE Investigating the structural properties of amyloid-like fibrils formed in vitro from Beta2-microglobulin using limited proteolysis and electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 20 1628-1636, 2006

Gosal WS, Morten IJ, Hewitt EW, Smith DA, Thomson NH, Radford SE Competing pathways determine fibril morphology in the self-assembly of beta2-microglobulin into amyloid. J Mol Biol 351 850-864, 2005
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Crampton N, Bonass WA, Kirkham J, Thomson NH Formation of Aminosilane-Functionalized Mica for Atomic Force Microscopy Imaging of DNA Langmuir 21 7884-7891, 2005
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Thomson NH Imaging the substructure of antibodies with tapping-mode AFM in air: the importance of a water layer on mica. J Microsc 217 193-199, 2005
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Whitehouse C, Fang J, Aggeli A, Bell M, Brydson R, Fishwick CWG, Henderson JR, Knobler CM, Owens RW, Thomson NH, Smith DA, Boden N Adsorption and Self-Assembly of Peptides on Mica Substrates Angewandte Chemie - International Edition 44 1965-1968, 2005

Thomson NH The substructure of immunoglobulin G resolved to 25 kDa using amplitude modulation AFM in air Ultramicroscopy 105 103-110, 2005
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Gibson C, Thomson NH, Abrams WR, Kirkham J Nested genes: Biological implications and use of AFM for analysis Gene 350 15-23, 2005

Heddle JG, Mitelheiser S, Maxwell A, Thomson NH Nucleotide binding to DNA gyrase causes loss of DNA wrap J MOL BIOL 337 597-610, 2004

Hatters DM, MacRaild CA, Daniels R, Gosal WS, Thomson NH, Jones JA, Davis JJ, MacPhee CE, Dobson CM, Howlett GJ The circularization of amyloid fibrils formed by apolipoprotein C-II BIOPHYS J 85 3979-3990, 2003

Thomson NH, Kasas S, Riederer BM, Catsicas S, Dietler G, Kulik AJ, Forró L Large fluctuations in the disassembly rate of microtubules revealed by atomic force microscopy. Ultramicroscopy 97 239-247, 2003
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Kad NM, Myers SL, Smith DP, Smith DAM, Radford SE, Thomson NH Hierarchical Assembly ofβ2-Microglobulin Amyloid In Vitro Revealed by Atomic Force Microscopy Journal of Molecular Biology 330 785-797, 2003
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Bousset L, Thomson NH, Radford SE, Melki R The yeast prion Ure2p retains its nativeá-helical conformation upon assembly into protein fibrils in vitro The EMBO Journal 21 2903-2911, 2002
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Kad NM, Thomson NH, Smith DP, Smith DA, Radford SE β2-microglobulin and its deamidated variant, N17D form amyloid fibrils with a range of morphologies in vitro Journal of Molecular Biology 313 559-571, 2001
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Almqvist N, Delamo Y, Smith BL, Thomson NH, Bartholdson A, Lal R, Brzezinski M, Hansma PK Micromechanical and structural properties of a pennate diatom investigated by atomic force microscopy J MICROSC-OXFORD 202 518-532, 2001

Kad NM, Thomson NH, Smith DP, Smith DA, Radford SE beta(2)-microglobulin and its deamidated variant, N17D form amyloid fibrils with a range of morphologies in vitro Journal of Molecular Biology 313 559-571, 2001

Guthold M, Zhu XS, Rivetti C, Yang GL, Thomson NH, Kasas S, Hansma HG, Smith B, Hansma PK, Bustamante C Direct observation of one-dimensional diffusion and transcription by Escherichia coli RNA polymerase Biophysical Journal 77 2284-2294, 1999

Shewry PR, Miles MJ, Thomson NH, Tatham AS Scanning probe microscopes - applications in cereal science Cereal Chemistry 74 193-199, 1997

Argaman M, Golan R, Thomson NH, Hansma HG Phase imaging of moving DNA molecules and DNA molecules replicated in the atomic force microscope Nucleic Acids Research 25 4379-4384, 1997

Kasas S, Thomson NH, Smith BL, Hansma PK, Miklossy J, Hansma HG Biological applications of the AFM : From single molecules to organs International Journal of Imaging Systems and Technology 8 151-161, 1997

Kasas S, Thomson NH, Smith BL, Hansma HG, Zhu XS, Guthold M, Bustamante C, Kool ET, Kashlev M, Hansma PK Escherichia coli RNA polymerase activity observed using atomic force microscopy ChemBioChem 36 461-468, 1997

Walters DA, Cleveland JP, Thomson NH, Hansma PK, Wendman MA, Gurley G, Elings V Short cantilevers for atomic force microscopy Review of Scientific Instruments 67 3583-3590, 1996

Thomson NH, Fritz M, Radmacher M, Cleveland JP, Schmidt CF, Hansma PK Protein tracking and detection of protein motion using atomic force microscopy Biophysical Journal 70 2421-2431, 1996

Thomson NH, Kasas S, Smith BL, Hansma HG, Hansma PK Reversible binding of DNA to mica for AFM imaging Langmuir 12 5905-5908, 1996