Professor Sonia Antoranz Contera

Dr Sonia Antoranz Contera, Research Fellow of Green Templeton CollegeProfessor Sonia Antoranz Contera is a Governing Body Fellow of Green Templeton College and a member of the Human Resources Committee. She is Professor of Biological Physics at the University of Oxford Physics Department.

I am a physicist, currently I work as Professor of Biological Physics at Oxford Physics Department. I am also the proud (and busy) mother of two little children.

My work lies at the interface of physics, biology and nanotechnology. I am an expert in atomic force microscopy of biological systems and I have a special interest in the role of mechanics in biology.

I am interested in the role of mechanics in bridging scales and in modulating transport and transmission of information, including through mechanoelectrical coupling in subcellular structures, cells and tissues.

We work on mechanics of cells, tissues, proteins and membranes and we design nanomaterials that mimic biological functions for bio/medical applications such as drug delivery or cell cultures. We are mainly dedicated to quantitative aspects of these applications (transport and mechanics).

I was founder, director and co-director of the Oxford Martin Institute of Nanoscience for Medicine at the Oxford Martin School from 2007-2015. I was also a Member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Nanotechnology 2014-2016 . Recently I have also become a member of the Physical Sciences Strategy Advisory Team of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) of the UK.

In 2017 I have been elected Chair of Scanning Probe Microscopy section of the Royal Microscopical Society. As from 2018 I am an member of the Advisory Committee on Science and Innovation to the Andalusian Government (Spain)

Currently I have three funded projects:


Leverhulme Trust: Nanomechanical aspects of plant cells walls with Prof Ian Moore of Oxford Plant Sciences. Funded by the Leverhulme trust. Jacob Seifert‘s PhD is funded by this grant. He is a physicist and works between the Plant Sciences Department and the Physics Department on nm- resolution quantitative multifrequency mapping of elastic and viscous mechanical properties of living plant tissues.

BBSRC: Geometric-edge specification in cell growth mechanics and morphogenesis £729,180.57 from 1.10.2017 for 36 months. (With PI Ian Moore, Oxford Plant Sciences and, coI Antoine Jerusalem, Oxford Engineering)


EPSRC: Electrophysiological-mechanical coupled pulses in neural membranes: a new paradigm for clinical therapy of SCI and TBI (NeuroPulse) which is the winner of the EPSRC Healthcare technology challenges. Antoine Jerusalem (PI, Oxford Engineering), myself (co-I) with clinical partners in Oxford and Cambridge will be working on advanced uses of ultrasound to control neuronal function.

I am a frequent public speaker on the role that Physics and Nanotechnology should (and will!) play in the future of biology and medicine and I have published several pieces on nanotechnology for the general public, such as this one in WIRED magazine on six future forms, or this one on the World Economic Forum Agenda : Can nanotechnology reduce inequality?

I am a member of several international, multidisciplinary collaborations, such as the JSPS funded Core-to-Core programme on sensing devices and the newly established International brain Mechanics and Trauma Lab.

I am a member of QBIOX.

I also collaborate with the Scenarios Programme of the Oxford Saïd Business School.

I graduated in Physics from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (93), then did graduate studies at Beijing Languages and Culture University (94-95) and worked as a researcher at the Czech Academy of Sciences with Prof. Zlatko Knor, one of the pioneers of atomic scale imaging of surfaces (95, liquid-solid interfaces with STM).

Then I moved to Japan on a Japanese Government Monbushō scholarship and got my PhD from Osaka University’s Dept. of Applied Physics, Graduate School of Engineering (2000, Layered materials/scanning probe microscopy, with Prof H Iwasaki as supervisor).

In 2000 I was awarded an E.U. Fellowship to Japan at the Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research SANKEN, Osaka University (nanostructures in bio/nanoelectronics). Later, I became a Research Assistant Professor in 2002, at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre, University of Aarhus, Denmark, setting up an AFM lab for biological experiments in Flemming Besenbacher’s iNANO centre (HIV-1 RNA tertiary structure, Nanoscience and tissue engineering approaches to improved biocompatibility).

In 2003 I moved to Oxford University Bionanotechnology IRC (carbon nanotube biosensors, bionanointerfaces, and biophysics of membrane proteins, scanning probe microscopy).

In 2007 I became a lecturer and RCUK Academic Fellow at Oxford Physics and in 2008 started the Oxford Martin Institute of Nanoscience for Medicine at the Oxford Martin School.

I work with labs all over the world and I have been a visiting professor at SANKEN in Osaka University, Kwazulu-Natal University Medical Faculty in South Africa, to set AFMs for HIV research, and at Tabata’s lab at Tokyo University’s Centre for BioNano Integration for application of THZ spectroscopy to biological membranes; I have had research stays at Ando’s high-speed AFM lab in Kanazawa University and Moscow Lomonosov State University.