Professor Nicholas Roberts


I gained my first degree, an MPhys in Physics and Astrophysics, in 1999 at the University of Manchester. I stayed on in Manchester and completed a PhD in the Liquid Crystal Physics Group with Prof Helen Gleeson OBE in 2003. The focus of my work was on optical studies of model biological liquid crystal systems relating to vertebrate photoreceptors. During my PhD, I conducted much of my biological research at University of Victoria, BC, Canada.

After a year as a post-doc back in Manchester, I was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Early Career fellowship to conduct research on vertebrate polarization vision. In 2006, I was awarded an EPSRC Life Science Interface fellowship to work on optical design in vertebrate and invertebrate visual systems, splitting my time between the new Photon Science Institute at Manchester and Queens University in Canada. In Oct 2009, I started a 5 year BBSRC David Philips Fellowship based in the Ecology of Vision Group here at Bristol. In 2012, I was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow in the school and in 2013 promoted to the position Reader. In 2015 I took on the role of the School's Director of Research and in 2017 was promoted to Professor of Sensory Ecology.

Outside of the University, I am a member of the BBSRC's Committee E, and set up the national mentoring scheme for the BBSRC Future Leaders Fellowships.  

Research Projects

  • How animals (fish, stomatopods, octopus, cuttlefish, dragonflies, bees) see the polarization of light.

  • New optics - how animals use structural optics to control the flow of light in ways humans haven't yet thought of.

  • How to hide in the open ocean - the optics of silvery camouflage.

  • Birefringence in biological optics.

  • Multi-dimensional coding of visual information - bio-inspired efficient and fast combined processing of colour, intensity and polarization.

  • Development of new optical and microscopy techniques for biological sciences.

Selected Publications 

Full publictaion list - here