CSC Seminar Series |Professor Gert Jan C. Veenstra
Although the best things in life are free, life itself comes at a cost and most of the things we associate with living organisms involve conversion of energy from one form into another; for instance conversion of light into chemical energy or chemical energy into mechanical work or electrical currents. My lab is interested in the biological macromolecules that are responsible for converting chemical energy into mechanical work and vice versa. These proteins are often called “molecular motors”, but their operating principles are very different from man-made machines because they function as single molecules: Each molecule of chemical fuel that they “burn” is handled individually and converted to a minute impulse of force and movement. We use optically-based methods that allow us to measure the forces and movements generated by single molecules and use the same techniques to apply forces to the molecules to see what happens when you twist or pull on them. I’ll talk about the family of motors that move things around inside your cells and make your muscles contract and also a protein that controls DNA replication by sensing the amount of elastic energy stored in the DNA structure.