Molecular physiology across scales

Molecular Physiology Illustration

The natural world is a magnificent place. Observable physical structures span at least 43 orders of magnitude in space and time. Life itself spans a broad range of these spatial and temporal scales. This range leaves an intricate mystery: How does molecular physiology — the molecular machinery — give rise to it all? How do features from the sub-atomic scale, 10-12 m and 10-15 s, lead to individual living structures up to 103 m and 1011 s?

Moreover, living processes conceal their wonder in a shroud of complexity. Mechanistic processes are thus challenging to directly measure or infer. Our goal in molecular physiology is to design measurements, data analyses, and theoretical frameworks to capture biomolecular processes from the subatomic scale (10-12 m, 10-15 s) to the cellular scale (10-6 m, 103 s; not including, e.g., Paramecium tetraurelia or Caulerpa taxifolia).

In close collaboration with experimentalists, we seek to increase the resolution, scope, and throughput of single-biomolecule and ensemble techniques. This includes nanopore-based biomolecular analysis, ultrafast vibrational spectroscopy, and FRET, among others. These developments rely heavily on our ability to fabricate and employ novel nanostructures to enhance specificity and decrease uncertainty.

Advances in fabrication and measurement proceed in concert with developments in accurate theoretical and computational methods. The latter include machine learning and (all-atom) molecular simulation, as well as with approaches for comprehensive experimental data analysis. The result — high quality data and interpretation — enables us to distill general principles and perform critical tests of biomolecular operation across scales.

Further Reading: Molecular Physiology

Take a look at our program page at NIST or some of the articles below:

  1. J. E. Elenewski, K. A. Velizhanin & M. Zwolak, A spin-1 representation for dual-funnel energy landscapes » J. Chem. Phys. 149, 035101 (2018)
  2. S. Sahu & M. Zwolak, The golden aspect ratio for ion transport » Phys. Rev. E 98, 012404 (2018)
  3. S. Sahu & M. Zwolak, Maxwell-Hall access resistance in graphene nanopores » Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 20, 4646 (2018)