On Friday, November 12, 2010, Taekjip Ha, Professor of Physics and Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joined us to present "Single Molecule Nanometry for Biological Physics."
Precision measurement is a hallmark of physics but the small length scale (~nanometer) of elementary biological processes and the thermal fluctuations surrounding them challenge our ability to visualize the motion of biological molecules. In this talk, I will highlight the recent developments in single molecule nanometry where a position of a single fluorescent molecule can be determined with a single nanometer precision, reaching the limit imposed by the shot noise. The relative motion between two molecules can be determined with ~0.3 nm precision at ~ 1 milliseconds time resolution, providing fundamental insights on how motor proteins move on cellular highways. Finally, I will show our recent progress in combining angstrom scale optical tweezers with single molecule fluorescent detection, opening new avenues for multi-dimensional single molecule nanometry for biological physics.
Professor Taekjip Ha received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1996, from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the Physics faculty at the University of Illinois in August 2000, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1997) and a postdoctoral research associate in Steven Chu's laboratory in the Department of Physics at Stanford University (1998-2000). He was named 2001 Searle scholar. In 2005, Dr. Ha was named an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2008, Dr. Ha was selected by the National Science Foundation to receive a grant to establish and co-direct the Center for the Physics of Living Cells at the University of Illinois.
Professor Ha has achieved many "firsts" in experimental biological physics--the first dectection of dipole-dipole interaction (fluorescence resonance energy transfer, or FRET) between two single molecules; the first observation of "quantum jumps" of single molecules at room temperature; the first detection of the rotation of single molecules; and the first detection of enzyme conformational changes via single-molecule FRET. His most recent work, using single-molecule measurements to understand protein-DNA interactions and enzyme dynamics, has led him to develop novel optical techniques, fluid-handling systems, and surface preparations.