Angus Bain works on the development of advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques, such as fluorescence life-time imaging, Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), and super-resolution (stimulated emission depletion, STED) microscopy. The use of these in his lab has helped, for example, to track the phosporylation of key proteins (NADH) in the cellular energy metabolism and to investigate conformational dynamics of tumor suppressors.
Mechanics and shape of cells and cell monolayers
Guillaume Charras’s research focuses on mechanics and shape formation at the level of the submembranous actin cortex in individual cells, as well as at the level of ensembles of cells in tissue-mimicking cell monolayers. To this end, he uses techniques such as force microscopy and spectroscopy, optical microscopy, electron microscopy, and optogenetics.
Atomic force microscopy for nanoscale biophysics
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a unique tool to for the nanometre-scale visualisation of biomolecules in action. Bart Hoogenboom uses high-resolution AFM in aqueous solution, combined with other experimental and theoretical biophysical approaches, for the study of protein/peptide dynamics and assembly (e.g., for membrane pore formation); of transport selectivity in the nuclear pore complex; and of the various structures that can be adopted by DNA.
Theoretical biological physics and control theory
Thomas Michaels' lab use ideas from theoretical physics, control theory and computational biology, in close collaboration with experimentalists, to develop a quantitative understanding of complex systems in biology. Most of their current research seeks to understand how functional and pathological biomolecular aggregation processes are regulated in time and in space in living systems. The theoretical and computational methods they develop apply to a wide range of complex systems beyond biological aggregation, and they have recently become interested in studying the interplay between aging and cancer from a network physics and control theory perspective.
Nanoparticle synthesis and biofunctionalisation
Nanoparticles can provide a handle for tracking, imaging, and manipulating cells and tissues, with potential applications for the diagnosis and treatment of cancers. Thanh Nguyen is a specialist on the synthesis and functionalisation of various types of nanoparticles for biomedical applications.
X-ray diffraction for probing biological structure
Ian Robinson develops and applies new methods based on coherent X-ray diffraction using synchrotron radiation. Besides an extensive programme in solid-state physics, he uses X-rays for probing biological structures, ranging from collagen fibrils to the metaphase human chromosome.
Electron/proton transfer and small-molecule transport in proteins
Electron transfer is a common chemical reaction in catalytic processes such as light-energy harvesting; proton transfer is the most frequently occurring chemical reaction in biological systems; and small-molecule transport essential in lung function. These processes have in common that they can be addressed by atomic to molecular scale computational modelling, carried out by Jochen Blumberger.
Mathematical and physical biology
Zena Hadjivasiliou's lab studies how structure and organisation emerge in living systems. They develop mathematical and physical descriptions that help to bridge events that happen at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and whole organism scale. One of their core interests is the process of development where organisms grow from a single cell to an adult body of well-defined and reproducible size, shape and morphology. They study the developmental machineries that underlie this remarkable transformation in size and organization during development. Understanding the mechanisms that control animal growth and patterning can also help explain how the enormous diversity we see across the tree of life has emerged.
Optical tweezers enable us to trap micro- to nanoscale objects with picoNewton forces, with the particular advantage – for biological sciences – that this can be done in aqueous solution. Phil Jones uses optical tweezers for a range of experiments on colloidal, soft-matter and biological systems including, for example, elasticity measurements on cell membranes.
Mechanobiology and Biophysics
In order to grow and divide cells need to organize themselves in space and time. Intracellular rearrangements are driven by combination of motor and non-motor proteins that generate and respond to mechanical forces. Maxim Molodtsov uses single-molecule microscopy, force spectroscopy and develops new tools to investigate how mechanical activities of multiple molecules are coordinated to achieve complex cellular organisation.
It is well known that quantum mechanics explains the structure and stability of the biomolecules. What remains unknown is whether there are quantum coherent dynamics that are relevant for their biological functionality. Alexandra Olaya-Castro develops quantum mechanical approaches to photosynthetic complexes, electronic and vibrational dynamics in biomolecules, charge and exciton transfer processes, and thermodynamics of biomolecular processes.
Functional and pathological biological assembly
The assembly of macromolecules into controlled nano- and mesoscale architectures generates the molecular machinery of life. Uncontrolled assembly, on the other hand, is involved in severe diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Andela Saric uses computer simulations and soft matter physics to study the assembly of biological systems. Examples include functional and pathological protein aggregation, membrane trafficking, and pathways of pathogen infection.