Alexander P.P. Petroff
Laboratory of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics
Center for Studies in Physics and Biology
Rockefeller University
1230 York Ave
New York, New York

Personal Information

US citizen


Research Scientist, Rockefeller University 2011-current
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, Bard College, Annandale-on Hudson, NY 2016-current


Ph.D. Geophysics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 2011
B.A. Magna cum laude, Physics, Carleton College, Northfield, MN 2006.
B.A. Magna cum laude, Mathematics, Carleton College, Northfield, MN 2006.

Other education

Microbial Diversity Summer School, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Ma 2009 (selected to present this work by the Moore Foundation at the ASM meeting 2010)
Summer Research Intern, Santa Fe Institute, June-August 2005


Raymond and Beverly Sackler Fellow, Rockefeller University 2012-present
John C. Whitehead Presidential Fellow, Rockefeller University 2011-2012
Center for Studies in Physics and Biology Department Fellowship, Rockefeller University 2011-2014
American Geophysical Union Outstanding Student Paper Award in Biogeoscience 2010
American Geophysical Union Outstanding Student Paper Award in Hydrology 2008
Department Student Teaching Award 2008
Linden Earth System Graduate Fellowship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2006-2007
Graduation with Distinction in Physics, Carleton College 2006
Dean's List, Carleton College 2006


Teaching Assistant for Modeling Environmental Complexity, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, September-December 2008 (awarded department teaching award)
Mathematics Tutor, Carleton College, 2004-2006


Wogan, T., Bacteria Stick Together as Living Crystals
2015, Physics 8,35.[link]

Webster, M., Radiolab, Super Cool
2014, Radiolab Short.[link]

Morrison, J., Bacteria work together to gather food
2014, PNAS First Look Blog.[link]

Voss, D., Eons of Diffusive Growth
2013, Physics.[link]

Smart, A., Hidden order emerges in stream networks
2013, Physics Today.[link]

Chu, J., A new `branch' of math
2012, MIT news.[link]

Althausm J.,From Local to Global to Mars?!
2010, The Nature Conservancy Florida Chapter News.

Bosak, T and Petroff, A., Photosynthesis on the early Earth
2010, Science for the Public: Public Lecture Series.[link]

Bettex M., Bacterial growths may offer clues about Earths distant past
2010, MIT News Office. Published in: Astrobiology, Science Daily, Space Daily, Terra Daily, Red Orbit.[link]

Unearthing the Flow
2009, Nature Geoscience.[link]

Howard, A., Forming Valleys From Below
2009, Nature Geoscience.[link]


Petroff, A.P., Streams, Stromatolites, and the Geometry of Growth.[link]


Microbial ecosystems in sediment

Petroff, AP, Tejera, F, Libchaber, A. Mud, microbes, and oxygen, a three-body problem. Journal of Statistical Physics (in review).

Petroff, AP, Libchaber, A. Localization and dynamics of sulfur-oxidizing microbes in natural sediment. (in prep).

Bacterial crystals

Petroff, AP, Wu, XL, Libchaber, A. Fast-moving bacteria self organize into active two-dimensional crystals of rotating cells. Physical Review Letters 114, 158102 (2015)[link]

Dynamics of bacterial cooperation

Petroff A, Libchaber A. Hydrodynamics and collective behavior of the tethered bacterium Thiovulum majus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, E537--E545. (2014).[link]

Petroff, A, Pasulka A, Soplop N, Wu XL, Libchaber A. Biophysical basis for convergent evolution of two veil-forming microbes. Royal Society Open Science 2, 150437 (2015).[link]

Physics of valley growth

Petroff, AP, Devauchelle, O, Seybold H, & Rothman DH Bifurcation dynamics of natural drainage networks. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 371, 2004 (2013).[link]

Berhanu, M, Petroff, AP, Devauchelle, O, Kudrolli, A, & Rothman, DH. Shape and dynamics of seepage erosion in a horizontal granular bed. Physical Review E 86, 041304 (2013).[link]

Devauchelle, O, Petroff, AP, Seybold H, & Rothman DH. Ramification of Stream Networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, 20832 (2012).[link]

Petroff, AP, Devauchelle, O, Kurolli A, & Rothman DH. Four bagatelles on channel growth. Comptes Rendus Geoscience 344, 33 (2012).[link]

Petroff, AP, Devauchelle, O, Abrams, DM, Lobkovsky, A, Kudrolli, A & Rothman, DH. Geometry of valley growth. Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 273, 245 (2011) [link]

Devauchelle, O, Petroff, AP, Lobkovsky, A & Rothman, DH. Longitudinal profile of channels cut by springs. Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 667, 28 (2011)[link]

Abrams, DM, Lobkovsky, A, Petroff, AP, Straub, K, McElroy, B, Mohrig, D, Kudrolli, A. & Rothman, DH. Growth laws for channel networks incised by groundwater flow. Nature Geoscience , 28, 193-196 (2009)[link]

Microbial fossils

Petroff, AP, Beukus, N, Rothman, DH, & Bosak, T. Biofilm growth and fossil form. Physical Review X 3, 041012 (2013).[link]

Bosak, T, Knoll, AH, & Petroff, AP. The Meaning of Stromatolites. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 41, 21 (2012).[link]

Sim, MS, Liang, B, Petroff, AP, Evans, A, Klepac-Ceraj, V, Flannery, D, Walter, MR, & Bosak, T. Oxygen-Dependent Morphogenesis of Modern Clumped Photosynthetic Mats and Implications for the Archean Stromatolite Record. Geosciences 2, 235 (2012).[link]

Petroff, AP, Wu, TD, Liang, B, Mui, J, Guerquin-Kern, JL, Vali, H, Rothman, DH, Bosak, T. Reaction-diffusion model of nutrient uptake in a biofilm: Theory and experiment. Journal of Theoretical Biology 289, 90 (2011).[link]

Petroff, AP, Sim, MS, Maslov, A, Krupenin, M, Rothman, DH, & Bosak, T. Biophysical basis for the geometry of conical stromatolites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, 9956 (2010) [link]

Bosak, T, Bush JWM, Flynn MR, Liang, B, Ono, S, Petroff, AP, & Sim, MS Formation and stability of oxygen-rich bubbles that shape photosynthetic mats. Geobiology , 8, 45--55 (2010).[link]

Bosak, T, Liang, B, Sim, M & Petroff, AP, Rothman DH. Morphological record of oxygenic photosynthesis in conical stromatolites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, 10939 (2009)[link]

Undergraduate work

Koontz, T, Petroff, AP, West, G & Brown, J. Scaling relations for a functionally two-dimensional plant: Chamaesyce setiloba (Euphorbiaceae). American Journal of Botany , 96, 877 (2009)[link]

Mewes, M & Petroff, AP. Cavity tests of parity-odd Lorentz violations in electrodynamics. Phys. Rev. D , 75, 056002 (2007).[link]