Faculty of Science

Alvaro Mata


Alvaro Mata

Chair in Biomedical Engineering & Biomaterials, Researcher, School of Pharmacy

I am fascinated by the opportunities for discovery and invention that exist at the interface of engineering and biology.  


1. Describe your research topic in ten words or less?

We build with molecules smart biomaterials for regenerative medicine.

2. Now describe it in everyday terms?

Nature has evolved to grow and heal tissues and organs through the assembly of multiple types of molecular building blocks. As the need for more functional regenerative solutions increases, it is essential to develop new approaches that can more accurately and effectively recreate biological systems. We are an interdisciplinary team of engineers, pharmacists, chemists, biologist, and clinicians developing ways to build with biomolecules, such as proteins, materials that can recreate properties of living systems and stimulate cells to grow into complex and functional tissues.

3. What inspired you to pursue this research area?

I am fascinated by the opportunities for discovery and invention that exist at the interface of engineering and biology. Through this approach, we have the capacity to work with processes that biology has evolved and optimised over billions of years to use biomolecules as "Lego" pieces to engineer materials with innovative and life-like properties. Through these materials, we can build devices to communicate with and guide biology for applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

4. What are some of your day-to-day research activities?

The best part of my day is to meet with students to discuss ideas, results, plans, and helping them progress in their projects and careers. I also spend a large part of my day writing grants, building collaborations and networks, writing publications, and reviewing manuscripts and grants.

5. What do you enjoy most about your research?

The intellectual freedom and the room for creativity. The possibility to discover something that nobody has ever seen and the opportunity to develop and invent new technologies that can positively influence society. It is also a great place to help students and postdocs to thrive and build successful careers. Within our specific area of work, it is extremely interesting to be able to work with processes that biology has evolved and be able to dissect, control, and guide them to develop new technologies.

6. How have you approached any challenges you’ve faced in your research?

Research is full of challenges, if one chooses to see them like that. I prefer to see them as opportunities. My favorite type of research is the most challenging one, the one that pushes boundaries and operates beyond current states of knowledge. This requires you to be curious, creative, and have an open mind.

7. What questions have emerged as a result of your recent work?

We have discovered new ways to build with biomolecules at different size scales which have led to many new questions around underlying molecular mechanism and new ways to interact with biology. I love a quote by Prof. Robert Langer from MIT, that says something like: to become a great scientist you have to transition from a focus on giving good answers to one that is focused on asking good questions.

8. What kind of impact do you hope your research will have?

The number one impact is to overcome current major challenges in regenerative medicine. Great advances have happened in this field in the last decades but we are still far behind what biology has evolved to do. My team works on developing new technologies that push these boundaries. 

9. How do you link your research with your teaching?

Knowledge is easy to obtain. What is really important is to learn how to think, be creative, have an open mind, and identify what you are really passionate about. In my teaching, I focus on these aspects, which are the base of my research. I believe that the priority for a student is to finish University knowing what is her/his passion and to have the right “tools” to dive into and succeed at it.

10. What one piece of advice would you give your younger, less experienced research self?

Find your passion and work on what you really love. You will know you have achieved this when you feel you are not working any more.


Faculty of Science

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD