Nano comes to life

7.00pm to 8.30pm, Monday 13 January

The Theatre

The Royal Institution of Great Britain GB United Kingdom W1S 4BS 21 Albemarle Street London

This event has already taken place

  • Credit: Sonia Contera


Standard £16


Concession £10


Ri Members and Ri Patrons £7

Event description

How and why do we design and build artificial structures and even machines at the nanoscale using DNA, proteins, and other biological molecules?

In this talk, explore how nanoscale machines can target individual cancer cells and deliver drugs more effectively, as well as how nano-antibiotics can fight resistant bacteria, and how tissues and organs can be modified for drug discovery and transplantation.

Sonia Contera explores how nanotechnology is revolutionising medicine in ways that will have profound effects on our health and longevity.

More profoundly, nanotech facilitates the study of biology within the framework of physics, potentially changing not only the future of engineering and AI, but also the way we think about life itself.

About the speaker

Sonia Contera is a physicist, working as an Associate Professor of Biological Physics at Oxford Physics Department. She is also the proud (and busy) mother of two little children.

Her work lies at the interface of physics, biology and nanotechnology. She is an expert in atomic force microscopy of biological systems and she has a special interest in the role of mechanics in biology. She is interested in the role of mechanics in bridging scales and in modulating transport and transmission of information, including through mechanoelectrical coupling in subcellular structures, cells and tissues.

She was founder, director and co-director of the Oxford Martin Institute of Nanoscience for Medicine at the Oxford Martin School from 2007 to 2015. She is Fellow of Green Templeton College and also a Member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Nanotechnology 2014-2016. Recently she has become a member of the Physical Sciences Strategy Advisory Team of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) of the UK.

In 2017 she was elected Chair of Scanning Probe Microscopy section of the Royal Microscopical Society. As from 2018 she is a member of the Advisory Committee on Science and Innovation to the Andalusian Government (Spain).


The doors will open at approximately 6.30pm, with a prompt start at 7.00pm. There will be time for questions after the talk.

Latecomers will be admitted into the gallery.

Book signing

Copies of Sonia's book, 'Nano Comes to Life: How Nanotechnology Is Transforming Medicine and the Future of Biology', will be available for purchase and signing after the event. 


This event will be filmed and on the Ri's YouTube channel within a few months. Subscribe for free to hear when new videos are released.


The theatre is on the first floor. We currently don't have step-free access due to a lift engineering fault. 

The closest underground station is Green Park, which is step-free.

There is space at floor level in the theatre for wheelchair users.

Seating is usually unreserved for our events. If you and your group require seating reservations, please do let us know by email and we’ll be more than happy to help. Email:

Carers can receive a free ticket to an event by emailing

Our theatre is equipped with an Audio Induction Loop. 

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