Dr Tom Robinson

Lecturer in Chemical Engineering



2.078 Faraday Building

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Engineering Discipline: 

  • Chemical Engineering

Research Institute: 

  • Bioengineering

Research Theme: 

  • Bioengineering
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Research Interests: 

Synthetic Biology

The bottom-up approach to synthetic biology aims to create life-like artificial cells from non-living components. Our group specialises in creating synthetic cells that contain multiple sub-compartments (analogous to eukaryotic cell organelles). To do this, we use droplet microfluidics and giant lipid vesicles (or GUVs). Once created, we can setup multi-step enzymatic reaction cascades between the compartments.
These synthetic cells can shed light on natural biological cell functions but can also be used for industrial applications like biofuel production or in biomedical applications for drug delivery.

Lipid Membranes

Cell membranes need to be structurally complex in order to perform a multitude of cellular functions. Studying individual components, like biomembranes, is typically performed using real cells. However, isolating biomembranes from the rest of the cell can be difficult or impossible. Therefore, as an alternative, our lab uses model membranes. Here, different aspects of the membrane, such as lipid composition, permeability, and membrane proteins can be studied in isolated under controlled conditions, free from other cellular influences. Different types of lipid membranes serve as our models including GUVs on the micron-scale, and nano-sized lipid vesicles down to 100 nm. In addition, we also use these model membranes systems to study membrane fusion as well as ligand-membrane interactions. Key to our success is the development of our cutting-edge lipid vesicle formation methods including microfluidics and bulk emulsions.


Microfluidic technology is used throughout the different research topics in the Robinson lab. We current focus on using microfluidics for the following applications:

  • Single cell handling and analysis (including cancer cells, and active swimmers).
  • High-throughput production of monodisperse lipid vesicles (via double emulsion templating).
  • Advanced handling, manipulation (flow, compression, electrofusion), and analysis of lipid vesicles.

Designing, fabricating, and testing novel microfluidic systems for new applications also makes up its own unique line of research.


  • Microfluidics.
  • Bottom-up synthetic biology.
  • Lipid vesicles.
  • Membrane fusion.
  • Advanced microscopy: including FLIM, confocal, multiphoton, and high-speed capture.
  • Single cell handling and analysis.