Associate Professor Geoff Willmott

MA, MSci, PhD (Cambridge)

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Associate Professor


I am a New Zealander who studied at the University of Cambridge (UK), obtaining a PhD in shock physics in 2005. I returned to New Zealand the following year to a postdoctoral position with the Nano and Micro Fluidics team at Industrial Research Limited (now Callaghan Innovation) in Lower Hutt, where I developed an interest in nanofluidics. I was appointed as a Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute in 2010, awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship in 2012, and started at the University of Auckland in October 2013. I have a joint appointment between the Department of Physics and the School of Chemical Sciences.

I have had research collaborations with industrial partners including Qinetiq, de Beers, Izon Science, and Ecomist, and previously worked in management consultancy. Since 2018 I have been Deputy Director for Commercialisation and Industry Engagement in the MacDiarmid Institute, and in 2021 I was appointed co-Deputy Head of Department (Research) in Physics.

Research | Current

My research covers nano- and microfluidics, which are fields with rich potential for applications in medicine, sensing, biotechnology and industry. In general, I am trying to apply physics to fundamental and practical problems through both theory and experiments.

I run a Dynamic Microfluidics Laboratory, featuring high-speed cameras which are set up to image the behaviour of moving microfluidic droplets (especially, drop impacts). We are currently working on MBIE Smart Ideas grants involving drop impacts for spray drying of food products, and drop mobility on surfaces with designed hierarchical length-scales. We study phenomena such as superhydrophobicity, capillary uptake, and instabilities in ferrofluids. Water droplets are of growing importance in our understanding of 'megatrends'; this facility should be useful for studying the role of droplets in infectious disease transmission, water sustainability via control and management technologies, and climate change via cloud nucleation. 

I have a general interest in nanofluidic transport – the motion of liquids (and particles within them) on very small scales. I have worked extensively on a nanofluidic technology known as tunable resistive pulse sensing, and more recently extended this work to study ‘soft’ nanomechanics using pipettes, which is of interest for biomedical research. I have also studied interfacial slip, and projects aligned with the MacDiarmid Institute are available to study Janus particles - especially their dynamics, self-assembly properties, and potential reconfigurability.

Teaching | Current

PHYS120 Advancing Physics (studio format)

PHYS332 Fluid Mechanics - Course Co-ordinator

CHEM252 Properties and Analysis of Matter (materials chemistry)

CHEM340 Advanced Analytical Chemistry (nano- and microfluidics)

Science Scholars programme

Postgraduate supervision

Qaisar Latif (PhD)

Sina Safaei (PhD)

Santhosh Kumar Pandian (PhD)

Nicola Lacalendola (PhD)



  • Rutherford Discovery Fellowship (2012)


  • Deputy Director (Commercialization and Industry Engagement), The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology
  • Co-Deputy Head of Department (Research) in Physics

Areas of expertise

  • Dynamic microfluidics and high-speed photography
  • Tunable resistive pulse sensing, nanopipettes and nanofluidic transport
  • Wetting and capillarity in micro- and nanofluidics, including superhydrophobicity
  • The dynamics and collective dynamics of slippery particles

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • MacDiarmid Institute: Board and Science Executive
  • Department of Physics Research and Postgraduate Committees
  • Council, New Zealand Institute of Physics
  • Secretary, Microfluidics Society of Australia and New Zealand
  • OnBoard Board Observer (2021), Carbonscape
  • Available to discuss governance roles

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Gangotra, A., & Willmott, G. R. (2019). Mechanical properties of bovine erythrocytes derived from ion current measurements using micropipettes. Bioelectrochemistry (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 128, 204-210. 10.1016/j.bioelechem.2019.04.013
  • Lardier, N., P. Roudier, B. Clothier, & G. R. Willmott (2019). High‐speed photography of water drop impacts on sand and soil. European journal of soil science, 70 (2), 245-256. 10.1111/ejss.12737
  • Willmott, G. R. (2018). Tunable Resistive Pulse Sensing: Better Size and Charge Measurements for Submicrometer Colloids. Analytical chemistry, 90 (5), 2987-2995. 10.1021/acs.analchem.7b05106
  • Robson, S., & Willmott, G. R. (2016). Asymmetries in the spread of drops impacting on hydrophobic micropillar arrays. Soft Matter, 12 (21), 4853-4865. 10.1039/c5sm03108g


Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 303 - Bldg 303
Level 6, Room 609
New Zealand

Social links

Web links