CBES Investigators

George Schatz

Eric Lai

Postdoctoral Fellow
Chemistry

Yu Zhang

Postdoctoral Fellow
CBES

Aysenur Iscen

PhD Candidate
Chemical and Biological Engineering

Research Overview

The Schatz group is studying bioinspired molecular machines and nonequilibrium self-assembly. Under the NERC Center we developed new theory methods to describe the nonequilibrium self-assembly of aggregates and assemblies of molecules and nanoparticles. This included studies of the formation of DNA-linked nanoparticle superlattices using a maximum hybridization model that successfully explains superlattice crystal structures that can be prepared depending on DNA-linker density and length, and nanoparticle diameter. We also developed molecular dynamics methods based on the use of “seeded” structures to the describe the self-assembly of peptide amphiphiles. This provided a molecular level picture of the resulting cylindrical micelle fiber structures for the first time. Further work will extend the self-assembly work to consider switchable linkers, and to study micelles with dual functions, such as photonic nanowires that are also mechanically stiff fibers.

Schematic showing a biological sodium ion pump which consists of a protein with a pore that is inserted into a bilayer membrane.  There are four steps to the process of pumping sodium ions (orange) that correspond to opening and closing of “gates” on either side, as powered by the hydrolysis of ATP into ADP (green) and phosphate (yellow). 

In other work, we have developed the thermodynamics and nonequilibrium statistical mechanics of bistable molecules in the presence of an external force, with emphasis on rotaxanes, DNA and azobenzenes, and recent work on peptides. This work is now being transitioned to the study of molecular machines such as ion pumps that combine chemical interactions and electron transfer with photoinduced electron transfer or electrochemical control.