Biophysics and Bioinspired Materials

An abundance of biological materials such as mucin, von Willebrand Factor, and chromatin are known to display interesting physics on disparate time and length scales. We aspire to emulate these physical behaviors found in biological systems. For example, DNA-protein interactions enable DNA conformation to be dictated by proteins, but conversely the DNA itself will govern protein binding. We will be developing new models to look at larger-length scale cooperative properties of this DNA-protein interplay. We want to develop large scale computational models as well as a theoretical understanding of how proteins interact with genetic material to create a “computational probe” of large length scale biophysical processes and ultimately connect molecular interactions with physiological behaviors.

We aspire to subsequently use our theoretical insight to enable the design of molecular systems with novel properties. Specifically, we will use our understanding of elasticity and electrostatics in protein-protein interactions and DNA-protein binding such that we can subsequently apply these effects to designed materials that exhibit molecular biomimetic properties such as artificial allostery and ion-specific stimuli response. Using fundamental polymer systems, we ultimately aim to elucidate minimal schemes for the realization of “artificial signalling” where synthetically accessible materials can partake in elaborate regulatory processes to form “soft computers”.