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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  Filippo de Luca

  Italy, Germany

  Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, St Catharine's College

  PhD thesis: TBC



Research interests:

  1. Active matter
  2. Pattern formation
  3. Statistical physics out of equilibrium
  4. Large deviation theory

In systems in thermal equilibrium, the statistical properties of the steady state are wholly determined by the free energy landscape. In particular, the free energy dictates the probabilities of rare events, such as the nucleation of droplets in liquid-liquid phase separation. Detailed balance ensures that the most probable trajectory for an event climbing up a free energy barrier is the time reversal of the relaxational dynamics. Large deviation theory provides a framework for the description of rare events even in situations where detailed balance is broken, yielding insights into the rates, most probable trajectories, and mechanisms governing large deviations. My PhD will focus on generalising this framework to active field theories, which describe the collective dynamics of active matter systems on a coarse-grained level. This would allow us to characterize the role of rare events such as nucleation in the non-equilibrium dynamics of these systems.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

What I like about studying the physics of systems far from equilibrium is the opportunity to develop new forms of intuition that allow us to navigate the fascinating behaviour of these systems. This requires constantly challenging our assumptions and being open to new ways of thinking. My first encounter with this field was during my master's at LMU in Munich, where I did my thesis project on pattern formation in microtubule-motor mixtures.