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Research Interests

Biophysical Chemistry, our main research area, uses experimental and theoretical approaches and develops new methods to address the mechanisms of biological processes at a molecular level. By using a variety of physico-chemical techniques, we are studying the structure, dynamics and phase behavior of biological model systems, such as model biomembranes, nucleic acids, proteins, and their interactions. Their understanding helps in investigations of the more complex biological systems. Our emphasis in the field of membrane biophysics is the study of the energetics and phase behavior of lipid mesophases and the interaction of model biomembranes with steroids, anesthetics, drugs, polypeptides and signaling proteins. Our research activity is also motivated by a number of current and potential biomedical applications (e.g., drug delivery systems). We also address pressure effects in molecular biophysics, such as pressure-induced phase transformations of lipid membranes as well as folding and misfolding of proteins. Deeper knowledge of protein-folding physics and chemistry allows the design of drugs that will bind to specific protein conformations, thereby altering their folding pathway and preventing misfolding, which can lead to diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. Besides the general physico-chemical interest in using high pressure as a tool for understanding the conformational dynamics and energetics of biomolecular systems, high pressure is also of considerable physiological (e.g., for understanding the physiology of deep-sea organisms) and biotechnological (e.g., for high-pressure food processing, baroenzymology) interest.

Current Research Programs

Biophysical chemistry:

  • model biomembrane systems, lipid mixtures
  • energetics and phase behavior of lipid mesophases
  • membrane-protein interactions
  • membrane-associated signal transduction processes
  • rational membrane design, drug targeting
  • kinetics of biomolecular phase transitions
  • protein folding
  • misfolding and aggregation (amyloidogenesis) of proteins, small-molecule inhibitors
  • structure and dynamics of water in biomolecular systems (solvation science)
  • confinement, crowding and cosolvent effects on biomolecular systems
  • liquid-liquid phase separation phenomena, biomolecular condensates
  • high-pressure effects in molecular biophysics and soft condensed matter

Astrobiophysical chemistry:

  • biomaterials under extreme environmental conditions
  • prebiotic chemistry
  • the deep biosphere

Structure and dynamics of complex liquids:

  • liquid water and aqueous solutions
  • liquid matter under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure
  • polymer systems at high pressure conditions
  • liquid state physics