Biochemistry & Biomaterials

Conducting research at the intersection of biology and nanotechnology in exciting new interdisciplinary collaborations that combine the approaches of biochemistry, molecular biology, and biotechnology with the expertise of colleagues in the Departments of Materials Science, Physics, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, we are discovering the molecular mechanisms governing several biological processes that have technological consequences:

  1. biomineralization - The mechanisms behind biosynthesis and supramolecular self-assembly of molluscan shells and pearls, coral skeletons, and sponge spicules have revealed that biomineralization can be harnessed for the development of environmentally benign new routes to synthesis of high-performance materials.
  2. physical color - Squids and octopods are consummate masters of camouflage. Molecular characterization of light-reflecting tissues is revealing how to tune physical color.
  3. adhesion - Water is the nemesis of practical adhesive bonding, yet the rocky intertidal seashore is home to a host of organisms that spend their lives attached to wet solid surfaces. Dopa-containing proteins are a key to mimicking wet adhesion.
  4. high performance polymer composites - Impact implements such as teeth, fangs, beaks, spines, claws etc in many marine organisms are made from proteins with minimal or no reliance on minerals. Rapid self-healing occurs in some biomaterials such as whelk egg cases.


Rolf Christoffersen

Molecular biology of plant secondary metabolism; biochemistry of ethylene synthesis.

Frederick Dahlquist

Biochemistry; protein structure and function relationships; protein dynamics; chemotaxis in bacteria.

Anthony De Tomaso

Molecular mechanisms of self/non-self recognition in non-vertebrates; characterization of stem cells and development processes underlying regeneration and aging.

Stuart Feinstein

Biochemistry and Cell Biology of Neuronal Development; Biochemistry of Neurodegenerative Diseases; Structure, Function and Regulation of the Microtubule Associated Protein, Tau; Cytoskeletal Regulation.

Brooke Gardner

Combining biochemistry and cell biology to understand the regulation of membrane-bound organelles.

Christopher S. Hayes

Molecular genetics and biochemistry of bacterial contact-dependent growth inhibition (CDI) systems; mechanisms of tmRNA- and ArfA-mediated ribosome rescue.

John Lew

Molecular mechanisms of signal transduction; Alzheimer's Disease and other protein aggregation/misfolding diseases; molecular biology, enzymology, and protein structure/function.

Jamey Marth

Nanomedicine in Biomedical Discovery, Diagnosis, and Therapeutics that Target the Molecular and Cellular Origins of Disease.

Daniel E. Morse

Bio-inspired catalytic nanofabrication, tunable photonic materials and dynamic self-assembly. Applications to semiconductors, high-power batteries, electro-optics, IR and solar energy.

Chris Richardson

We investigate DNA repair mechanisms and use this knowledge to improve gene editing.

Cyrus Safinya

Nanoscale assembled structures in biological systems; structures of lipid-DNA complexes; supramolecular assembly of cell cytoskeletal proteins; development of lipid-based vectors for gene and drug delivery.

Charles E. Samuel

Antiviral innate immunity and interferon action, with focus on the roles of double-stranded RNA in translational control by the PKR kinase and A-to-I RNA editing by the ADAR1 deaminase.

Carol Vandenberg

Cell biology of the nervous system and muscle. Mechanisms of ion channel trafficking; function and regulation of potassium channels; polarized targeting of membrane proteins and neuronal cell polarity.

Herbert Waite

Structure-properties relationships in loadbearing marine biomolecular materials, e.g. from mussels, squid and whelks, at different length and time scales to design new materials.

Leslie Wilson

Mechanism and regulation of microtubule polymerization and dynamics; mechanism of action of microtubule-targeted anticancer drugs and microtubule-regulatory proteins.

Max Wilson

Combines tools from Biology, Engineering, and Physics to understand the cell’s perceptual field.