Andrea Markelz, PhD


239 Fronczak Hall
(716) 645-2739



  • BS, Physics and Applied Math, University of California, Berkeley – 1987
  • MS, Applied Physics, Columbia University – 1989
  • PhD, Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara – 1995
  • NRC Postdoctoral Fellow at National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD – 1995-1998
  • NSF GOALI Postdoctoral Fellow at Bell Labs, Murray Hill, NJ – 1998-1999

Research Area


Terahertz optical techniques (Free electron laser, MGL, THz time domain spectroscopy, THz microscopy), protein dynamicscharacterization, FTIR and UV/Vis characterization of proteins and semiconductors, semiconductor and materials processing, molecular dynamics simulations.

Research Interests

Our group pursues research to investigate and understand complex systems. In particular, what specific behaviors are a result of their complexity, and how a system can be optimized by complexity. Our main areas of interest are protein dynamics and electronic systems. For example, proteins are very large molecules that consist of thousands of atoms. A fundamental question is what purpose does the large three dimensional structure of a protein serve, given that biochemistry typically only occurs at a very small region of the large macromolecule.

One possible purpose is that the three dimensional structure can actually more precisely dictate when and how different biomolecules can interact than if only the chemically active groups were present. An emergent idea is that the structure’s dynamics can actually steer the interactions to optimize biological outcomes. By understanding how the structures do this, we can apply these principles to design of molecular materials for applications such as biofuel production or environmental remediation. Further, knowing the dependency of biology on protein dynamics could enable new therapeutic strategies, where drugs are designed to enhance or inhibit these motions. In order to investigate the role of protein dynamics in biological function we develop experimental techniques to probe the dynamics. The type of techniques used are set by the energy range of the dynamics. For these systems that is the energy range of meV (a thousandth of an electron volt) which is equivalent to thermal energy at biological temperatures. This energy range corresponds to very low frequency light, the terahertz frequency range. We analyze the results of our measurements by comparison with molecular dynamics simulations.  

Awards and Honors

  • Moti Lal Rustgi Chair, 2016
  • SUNY Buffalo Exceptional Scholar and Teaching Innovation Award, 2014
  • National Science Foundation's CAREER Award, 2004

Selected Publications

  • “Moving in the right direction:  protein vibrational steering towards function,” K. A. Niessen, Mengyang Xu, A. Paciaroni, A. Orecchini, E. H. Snell, and A. G. Markelz, Biophysical J. 112, 933 (2017). doi:
  • “Modulated orientation-sensitive terahertz spectroscopy,” Rohit Singh, Deepu Koshy George, Chejin Bae, K. A. Niessen,
    and A. G. Markelz, Photonics Research 4 , pp. A1-A8 (2016) doi: 10.1364/PRJ.4.0000A1.
  • “Terahertz Optical Measurements of Correlated Motions with Possible Allosteric Function,” K.A. Niessen, Mengyang Xu, and A. G. Markelz, Biophysical Rev. April 7, 2015 online doi: 10.1007/s12551-015-0168-4.
  • “Optical Measurements of Long-Range Protein Vibrations,” Gheorghe Acbas, Katherine A. Niessen, Edward H. Snell
    and A. G. Markelz, Nature Comm. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4076, 2014.

For a complete list of publications, please see the Markelz Research Group.