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Directed Assembly of Biological Macromolecules

Speaker: Juan de Pablo, University of Chicago
Series: CBE Departmental Seminars
Location: Elgin Room (E-Quad A224)
Date/Time: Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Much of the richness of polymeric materials derives from their ability to adopt a seemingly infinite number of conformations. A grand challenge for polymers science and engineering is therefore that of controlling and manipulating such conformations in order to engineer innovative materials for emerging applications. Synthetic polymer chemistry continues to make advances in its ability to create new molecules with well-defined, specific sequences. There is therefore considerable interest in developing processes that rely on the application of external fields or constraints to direct the assembly of such molecules into desirable morphologies. In the longer term, there is a need to identify and develop design principles that might capitalize on synthetic advances to create assemblies with engineered structures and, importantly, function. Over the past decade, our research group has focused on development of theoretical and computational methods for prediction of the structure and properties of polymeric assemblies. That work has led to design of self-assembly strategies in which the morphology of block polymer materials is manipulated by relying on patterned substrates. Building on that work, we are now aiming to understand how histone proteins can in fact direct the compaction of long strands of DNA to form functional, responsive chromatin structures. We are also developing models for active biomaterials. In this presentation I will discuss our recent work in the area of directed assembly of biopolymers, including DNA, microtubules and actin.