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NSF funds new 'Center for the Physics of Living Cells' at Illinois
Date:9/24/2008

ctroscopy maps" enabled them to detect subtle physical changes in molecules that had never been measured before.

Other advances are occurring in the field of computational microscopy, led by Schulten's biophysics group. Using the university's petascale computer capabilities, these researchers are modeling the dynamic interactions of up to a million atoms at a time. Their simulations are capturing events occurring over longer and longer time scales, increasing their biological relevance.

For example, a recent simulation explored 10 microseconds of a protein-folding event, Schulten said, "the longest simulation that is feasible today." This achievement was realized through the combined efforts of physicists and researchers at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, he said.

Computational microscopy, when combined with laboratory experiments, can offer new insight into mechanisms that cannot be studied by other means.

"There are certain things that you can never measure experimentally," Ha said. "But we can measure certain things and Klaus can simulate them, and if our results agree we can use the hidden things that only he can see to develop new models and design new experiments."

Ha and Schulten believe the new center will attract the best young researchers in the field. They are already recruiting six new post-doctoral fellows to join the effort. The recruits will work with 12 center members, including physics professors Paul Selvin, Nigel Goldenfeld, Yann Chemla, Ido Golding, Aleksei Aksimentiev and Karin Dahmen along with chemistry professors Zaida Luthey-Schulten and Martin Gruebele, biochemistry professor Stephen Sligar and electrical and computer engineering professor Gregory Timp.

"Biological physics is considered an important frontier field and the students and post-docs need to be prepared for it," Schulten said.

The center also will offer faculty and students at other institutions t
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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