Biophysics, literally the physics of life, enables scientists working at the intersection of physics, biology and chemistry to collaborate with clinicians, mathematicians and engineers to develop a predictive understanding of biological processes, including cancer, development, infection and the immune system.  Novel tools and techniques now permit biophysicists to see and measure what was once invisible. Physics has long played a prominent role in biology – Watson, Crick and Franklin, discoverers of the structure of DNA, considered themselves biophysicists – but that role has increased dramatically in recent years as the development of new methods has transformed our understanding of biological systems, their complexity and their molecular details.

The University of Notre Dame has a rich history of molecular biophysics research across disciplines. The recent establishment of the new Stavropoulos Center for Interdisciplinary Biophysics will strengthen these efforts across campus, attracting elite research talent at all levels of career development.

 

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Events

Michael Harms, University of Oregon

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Location: 127 Hayes-Healy

“Evolutionary Biophysics”
 
Michael J Harms, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Oregon
 
Abstract:
 

How does protein biochemistry shape protein evolution?  How do new biochemical features evolve?  To answer these questions, the Harms lab studies protein evolution using phylogenetic analyses, computational and experimental studies of protein “sequence space”, and rigorous studies of protein biochemistry.  I will discuss two ongoing projects.  In the first, we ask the deceptively simple question: why can’t we predict the combined effect of mutations by summing their individual effects?  Through a set of computational and experimental studies, we demonstrate that universal thermodynamic considerations explain why mutations do not combine additively.  Inspired by these results, we are developing quantitative, mechanistic models to account for non-additivity between mutations—potentially leading to predictive models of protein evolution.  In the second project, we are investigating the evolution of the innate immune protein S100A9.  This protein can exist as either a pro-inflammatory homodimer or as an antimicrobial heterodimer with the protein S100A8. We found that the heterodimer arose from an ancient homomeric interface that was maintained after gene duplication.  The key historical mutations that conferred inflammatory and antimicrobial activity have different effects when introduced into the homodimer versus the heterodimer.  This allowed a small protein to acquire new functions without compromising existing functions.  We suspect this may be a general mode my which multifunctional proteins evolve.

Read More about Michael Harms, University of Oregon

Carrie Miller (Azusa Pacific University)

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Location: Radiation Laboratory Auditorium

CGSO Sponsored Alumni in Academia Talk

This semester, our "Alumni in Academia" series seminar features speaker Dr. Carrie Miller, associate professor from Azusa Pacific University. Dr. Miller received her Ph.D. degree in chemistry at Notre Dame in 2010 under Prof. Steven Corcelli. In the talk, she will discuss her research as well as the development of her academic career. Postdocs and graduate students interested in careers in academia are highly encouraged to attend. Coffee and cookies will be provided. This event is co-hosted by the Department of Chemistry and Chemistry Graduate Student Organization (CGSO).

Read More about Carrie Miller (Azusa Pacific University)