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Photo of Dr Peter  Petrov

Dr Peter Petrov

Senior Lecturer


Telephone: 01392 724139

Extension: (Streatham) 4139

My research interests are in the area of membrane biophysics, with emphasis on the relationships between membrane composition, mesoscopic lateral ordering, physical properties and biological function.

We use a wide range of techniques to investigate the elastic and electrical properties of plasma membrane and their modification in disease. In particular, we are interested in the effects of oxidative stress on membrane mechanics, since there is overwhelming evidence that oxidative stress contributes critically to the development and detrimental effects of many diseases, including major health threats such as diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, arthritis, and a number of age related conditions. This approach also allows us to assess the anti-oxidative potential of drugs.

Another area of research in our laboratory is the interaction between proteins and lipid bilayer membranes. We investigate how the membrane lateral microdomain organisation and viscoelastic and electrical properties are modified as a result of the interactions with various proteins, such as spectrin (a cytosekeltal protein), α-elastin (an elastic protein) and bacterial toxins. Along with colleagues from the Medical School, we also work on protein-membrane interactions for proteins involved in the process of apoptosis.

We were the first to establish the presence of long-range lateral order in the tear film lipid layer using Grazing Incidence X-ray Diffraction. This is a part of a wider project aimed at detailed understanding of the relations between the mesoscopic organisation and the functional performance of the pre-ocular tear film lipid layer, and how they depend on the molecular diversity found in the layer.

Much work is carried out on the use of nonlinear optical imaging techniques, such as Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS), Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) and Multiphoton Fluorescence (MF) to investigate protein-membrane interactions and uptake of fatty acids by cells.

One of my research interests outside the immediate area of membrane biophysics is the problem of swimming at low Reynolds numbers and the possibility to construct working prototypes of viscous swimmers.

Further details about my research projects can be found here.

Past Work

In the past, I have worked extensively on problems related to statics and dynamics of wetting, resulting in a new model for the velocity dependence of the dynamic contact angle capable of accounting for the full energy dissipation in the three-phase contact zone.

At the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, I was involved in a number of projects studying the coupling between chemical processes and membrane morphology, which allows to achieve control over the shapes of soft membranes by means of (photo)chemical reactions.

I also spent some time as a Research Associate at the Cavendish Laboratory, investigating the mechanical properties of liquid crystal colloids and surfactant mesophases.

Education and Employment

1984 - 1989 MSc in Chemical Physics and Theoretical Chemistry, University of Sofia, Bulgaria 

1989 - 1994 PhD in Physical Chemistry, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

1989 - 1993 Research Fellow III-II degree (equivalent to Lecturer), Central Laboratory of Mineral Processing, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

1993 - 1997 Research Fellow II-I degree (equivalent to Lecturer and Senior Lecturer), Institute of Biophysics, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

1997 - 1999 Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, Golm, Germany

2000 - 2001 Research Associate, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge

2001 - 2006 Lecturer in Biomedical Physics, University of Exeter

since 2006 Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Physics, University of Exeter

Recent Research Grants

EPSRC: The impact of spectrin on membrane biophysics, £457k

DiabetesUK: Subcellular disposition of fatty acids in β-cells revealed by non-linear microscopy: insights into mechanisms of pancreatic β-cell lipotoxicity, £144k

DSTL: Effects of bacterial toxins on host cell membrane biophysics: biomarkers and targets for intervention, £382k

Recent Facilities Usage

STFC Diamond Light Source: The Structure of the Lipid Layer of the Pre-Occular Tear Film, 12 shifts

Contributions to the Community

Panel member on EPSRC Programme Grant Reviews