Our research program is in the area of single molecule biophysical chemistry. We are interested in the mechanical properties and conformational dynamics of elastic proteins. Elastic proteins are important structural and functional components in living cells. They serve as molecular springs in tissues to establish elastic connections and provide mechanical strength, elasticity, and extensibility. They are not only important for their biological functions in various biological processes, but also important building blocks for bottom-up construction of smart materials and mechanical devices on the nanoscale.
Our main research tool is single molecule atomic force microscopy. The AFM is a powerful technique allowing us to directly manipulate proteins one molecule at a time. We use the AFM to measure the mechanical properties of proteins, and monitor the folding/unfolding trajectories of single protein in real time. Our long term goal is to understand the mechanical properties of proteins at the single molecule level and use protein engineering techniques to design proteins with tailored mechanical properties to be used as functional and structural components for smart materials and nanomechanical devices.
1. Engineering proteins with tailored mechanical properties using single molecule AFM and protein engineering techniques.
2. Protein folding/unfolding dynamics at the single molecule level.
3. Polymer physical chemistry using single molecule AFM.