Dr Tom Montenegro-Johnson PhD

Dr Thomas Montenegro-Johnson

School of Mathematics
Reader in Applied Mathematics

Contact details

School of Mathematics
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Tom is a Reader in Applied Mathematics and the School Impact Lead.

He is an interdisciplinary mathematician working at the intersection of continuum mechanics, biology, microfluidics, and engineering. The main focus of his research is in the study microscale systems comprising smart, responsive, materials and flow-driving components as a way of controlling fluid flows at the microscopic scale, with applications in microfluidics and microbots. He leads an interdisciplinary team of 4 research fellows and 2 PhD students, and collaborates with experimentalists and industry worldwide to realise his theoretical designs. Recently, Tom has also begun working on the mathematics of the sense of touch. Tom is always keen to discuss to discuss new opportunities to collaborate, in particular with industrial partners.

He is the author or co-author of over 30 research papers in scientific journals, including internationally-leading journals such as Science Advances, Nature Communications, Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, and the Journal of Fluid Mechanics. His current primary funding is a Research Leadership Award from the Leverhulme Trust (PI), and he has received funding from Horizon 2020 FET “H-Reality” (CoI), EPSRC Bright Ideas Award “Artificial Transforming Swimmers for Precision Microfluidics Tasks” (PI), and a Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (PI), amongst others. His total research income is £1.35 M (PI) and £2.5 M (CoI).

Tom is passionate about engaging the wider public with STEM. He has co-developed an exhibit for the Birmingham Science Museum (Thinktank) based upon his research, acted as scientific advisor for a film project, and is currently engaged in an art-science collaboration with Award-winning origami artist Coco Sato. His work has received national news coverage. He regularly attends outreach events and science festivals.


  • PhD in Applied Mathematics, University of Birmingham 2013
  • MPhil in Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge 2010
  • BA in Mathematics, University of Cambridge 2008


Tom joined St John’s college Cambridge in 2005 to study mathematics. He then went on to an MPhil in Earth Sciences at the BP institute, Cambridge, under the supervision of Professor Colm Caulfield. He submitted his PhD on Microscopic Swimming in Biological Fluids in December 2012, under the supervision of Professor John Blake and Dr David Smith at the University of Birmingham. He then began a year-long postdoc with Dr Smith on elastohydrodynamic modelling, and in January 2014 he joined Dr Eric Lauga’s group in DAMTP at the University of Cambridge. In August 2016, Tom returned to the University of Birmingham where he is currently a Reader in Mathematical Biology.


Teaching Programmes

  • Advanced Mathematical Biology


  • Microscale Propulsion (artificial and biological)
  • Microfluidics
  • Diffusiophoresis
  • Numerical Methods for PDEs
  • The Sense of Touch
  • Mathematical Biology


Recent publications


Sharan, P, Maslen, C, Altunkeyik, B, Rehor, I, Simmchen, J & Montenegro-Johnson, T 2021, 'Fundamental modes of swimming correspond to fundamental modes of shape: engineering I-, U-, and S-shaped swimmers', Advanced Intelligent Systems. https://doi.org/10.1002/aisy.202100068

Koens, L & Montenegro-Johnson, TD 2021, 'Local drag of a slender rod parallel to a plane wall in a viscous fluid', Physical Review Fluids, vol. 6, no. 6, 064101. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevFluids.6.064101

Andrews, J, Adams, M & Montenegro-Johnson, T 2020, 'A universal scaling law of mammalian touch', Science Advances, vol. 6, no. 41, eabb6912. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abb6912

Gallagher, MT, Montenegro-Johnson, T & Smith, D 2020, 'Simulations of particle tracking in the oligociliated mouse node and implications for left-right symmetry breaking mechanics', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B, vol. 375, no. 1792, 20190161. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0161

Katsamba, P, Michelin, S & Montenegro-Johnson, T 2020, 'Slender phoretic theory of chemically active filaments', Journal of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 898, A24. https://doi.org/10.1017/jfm.2020.410

Montenegro-Johnson, T, Strauss, S, Jackson, MDB, Walker, L, Smith, RS & Bassel, GW 2019, '3DCellAtlas Meristem: a tool for the global cellular annotation of shoot apical meristems', Plant Methods, vol. 15, no. 1, 33. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13007-019-0413-0

Hall-McNair, A, Montenegro-Johnson, T, Gadêlha, H, Smith, D & Gallagher, MT 2019, 'Efficient implementation of elastohydrodynamics via integral operators', Physical Review Fluids, vol. 4, no. 11, 113101, pp. 113101-1 - 113101-24. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevFluids.4.113101

Baker, R, Montenegro-Johnson, T, Sediako, A, Thomson, M, Sen, A & Lauga, E 2019, 'Shape-programmed 3-D printed swimming microtori for the transport of passive and active agents', Nature Communications.

Baker, RD, Montenegro-Johnson, T, Sediako, AD, Thomson, MJ, Sen, A, Lauga, E & Aranson, IS 2019, 'Shape-programmed 3D printed swimming microtori for the transport of passive and active agents', Nature Communications, vol. 10, no. 1, 4932. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12904-0

Smith, D, Montenegro-Johnson, T & Lopes, S 2019, 'Symmetry-Breaking Cilia-Driven Flow in Embryogenesis', Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, vol. 51, pp. 105-128. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-fluid-010518-040231, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-fluid-010518-040231

Solowiej-Wedderburn, J, Smith, D, Lopes, S & Montenegro-Johnson, T 2019, 'Wall stress enhanced exocytosis of extracellular vesicles as a possible mechanism of left-right symmetry-breaking in vertebrate development', Journal of Theoretical Biology, vol. 460, pp. 220-226. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtbi.2018.10.015

Varma, A, Montenegro-Johnson, T & Michelin, S 2018, 'Clustering-induced self-propulsion of isotropic autophoretic particles', Soft Matter, vol. 14, no. 35, pp. 7155-7173. https://doi.org/10.1039/C8SM00690C

Montenegro-Johnson, T 2018, 'Microtransformers: Controlled microscale navigation with flexible robots', Physical Review Fluids, vol. 3, 062201. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevFluids.3.062201

Gagnon, D & Montenegro-Johnson, T 2018, 'Thrifty swimming with shear-thinning: a note on out-of-plane effects for undulatory locomotion through shear-thinning fluids', The ANZIAM Journal. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1446181118000032

Schmieding, L, Lauga, E & Montenegro-Johnson, T 2017, 'Autophoretic flow on a Torus', Physical Review Fluids, vol. 2, no. 3, 034201. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevFluids.2.034201

View all publications in research portal