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