Dr 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 and Izon Science, and previously worked in management consultancy. Since 2018 I have been Deputy Director in Commercialisation and Industry Engagement in the MacDiarmid Institute.

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. With sustainability of water supplies being an important emerging area, this facility should be useful for studying water control and management technologies.

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 are available to study Janus particles - especially their dynamics, self-assembly properties, and potential reconfigurability.

The group currently includes two postdoctoral fellows, Dr Steve Wells (working on ferrofluids and his own project with superconducting materials) and Dr Miguel Balzan (working on various dynamic microfluidics projects).


Teaching | Current

PHYS120 Advancing Physics (studio format, semester 2 in 2020)

PHYS332 Fluid Mechanics - Course Co-ordinator

CHEM252 Properties and Analysis of Matter (colloid and interface science)

CHEM340 Advanced Analytical Chemistry (nanotech, microfluidics)

Science Scholars programme

Postgraduate supervision

Qaisar Latif (PhD)

Sina Safaei (PhD)

Santhosh Kumar Pandian (PhD)

Nicola Lacalendola (PhD)

Alex Ferguson (Honours)



  • Rutherford Discovery Fellowship (2012)


Deputy Director (Commercialization and Industry Engagement), The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

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

Physics Postgraduate Committee

MacDiarmid Institute: Board and Science Executive

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • 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

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