Mark Christian Leake

Mark Christian Leake, FInstP, FRMS, FRSB


Former affiliation
  • United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

We offer a range of exciting PhD projects themed in the Physics of Life/biophysics/biological physics.

For details of personal research areas see:

For details of Physics of Life Group which Prof Leake coordinates see:

Contact: Prof Leake,

Personal profile


Chair of Biological Physics
Coordinator, Physics of Life Group
Departments of Physics and Biology


Leake Research Group

Mark Leake is a physicist by training but now addresses challenging biophysical and biochemical questions in a range of biological processes. General themes of his core research involve (i) developing new biophysical instrumentation for addressing open biological questions, and (ii) applying these tools coupled to molecular biology and biochemical approaches to investigating questions concerning single molecules under physiologically relevant environments. His work has added insight into the mechanistic behaviour of the flagellar motor of bacteria, DNA replication, repair and remodelling, protein transport, oxidative phosphorylation, and signal transduction and gene regulation. These advances have been underpinned by innovative tools and techniques which enable robust quantification of molecular and cellular properties: the spatiotemporal dynamics of functional molecular machines, their molecular architecture, the nature of their functional molecular interactions, and their level of expression on a live cell-by-cell basis. His team probes several areas of life science research, but the key four currently include:

  • DNA gyrase: unpicking mechanisms of this crucial antibiotic target in bacteria which functions to resolve lethal supercoils ahead of translocating polymerases.
  • DNA replication/repair: elucidating kinetics of turnover, recruitment and assembly of replication/repair machinery of DNA in bacteria models for those in higher organisms.
  • Signal transduction/gene regulation: using model yeast to study how chemical signals at cell membranes are converted to gene regulation in eukaryotic nuclei.
  • DNA topology: investigating cruical effects of shape on roles of DNA in the cell, including its interactions with binding partners and the activity status of genes.
  • Liquid-liquid phase separation in cells: investigating the links between physics and biology of remarkble membranefree mesoscale liquid droplets which can selectively sequester and spatially comparmetalise biomolecular components

Leake’s work on molecular manipulation, ultrasensitive imaging and bespoke biophysical instrumentation has led to >150 articles, >20 papers cited more than 100 times, >7,500 cumulative citations, with a personal h-index of 46 at the time of writing. He has been elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK), Royal Microscopical Society, and Royal Society of Biology, and an editor for Nature Publishing Group and Royal Society journals, and in 2020 was a co-recipient of the presitious Rosalin Franklin Medal from the Institute of Physics.  He is the Chair of Biological Physics and was Director/Founder of the Biological Physical Sciences Institute, University of York, following several years as a group leader and visiting professor at Oxford University, heading an interdisciplinary research team specializing in single-molecule biophysics, and now serves as Coordinator of the Physics of Life Group in York. He is sole-author of textbooks Single-molecule cellular biophysics CUP, Biophysics: Tools & Techniques CRC Press, and Editor of Chromosome Architecture Methods in Molecular Biology, Biophysics of Infection Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, and Single molecule cellular biophysics in the Royal Society’s flagship biology journal Phil Trans B. His core work ethic is underpinned by a rich sense of collegiality, dedicated to the pursuit of the highest standards of scholarship, academic collaboration, and inspirational teaching, and he aims to invigorate all who study, research and work with him. He currently serves as Coordinator to the Physics of Life Group in York , a Discovery Research Theme in the School of Physics, Engineering and Technology which hosts ~50 cross-disciplinary researchers, aswell as serving recently as the University's Research Champion for Technologies for the Future.

Employment History

15   Coordinator of the Physics of Life Group, University of York, UK 2019+.

14   University of York Research Champion for Technologies for the Future, 2021-22.

13   Director and Founder of the Biological Physical Sciences Institute (BPSI), University of York, UK 2013-2019.

12   Anniversary Chair and Full Professor of Biological Physics, Depts of Physics and Biology, University of York, UK 2013+.

11   Visiting Professor, Dept of Physics, Oxford University, UK 2013-Present.

10   Independent scientific consultant, 2012+.

9     Head of Single-Molecule Cellular Biophysics Group, Royal Society University Research Fellowship, Oxford University, UK 2007-13.

8     Head of Optical Proteomics Group, Principal Investigator and Senior Research Fellow in Systems Biology, Oxford University, UK. 2007-13.  

7     Expert scientific consultant, Oxford University Consulting Services (OUCS), UK. 2010-13.

6     Hertford College Oxford University Science Research Fellowship, 2008-2011.

5     Principal Investigator of the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration in Bionanotechnology, Oxford University, UK. 2007-2009.

4     Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, Oxford University, UK. 2006-2007.

3     Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Fellow in Bionanotechnology, Oxford University, UK. 2003-2006.

2     Deutsche Forschungsgemeinshaft Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ruprect-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Germany. 2002-2003.

1     Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biophysics, Oxford University, UK. 2001-2002.


  • Q Science (General)
  • Biophysics
  • Biological Molecules
  • Biological physics
  • Bioimaging
  • Single-molecule
  • Synthetic biology
  • Nanotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Gene regulation
  • Cell signaling
  • Immunology
  • Infection
  • Cancer
  • Protein trafficking
  • Microbiology
  • Sporulation
  • Super-resolution
  • Live cell
  • In vivo
  • Interdisciplinary
  • DNA replication
  • DNA repair
  • DNA topology
  • DNA-protein interactions

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or