Biophysics: Breaking the Nanometer Barrier
Professor Steven Block
Stanford University - Department of Applied Physics
A new field of scientific exploration - single molecule biophysics - is currently reshaping and redefining our understanding of the mechanochemistry of life. The development of laser-based optical traps, or 'optical tweezers,' has allowed for physiological assessments of such precision that bio-molecules can now be measured and studied one at a time. In this colloquium, Professor Block will present findings based on his group's construction of optical trapping instrumentation that has broken the nanometer barrier, allowing researchers to study single-molecule displacements on the Angstrom level. Focusing on RNA polymerase, the motor enzyme responsible for transcribing the genetic code contained in DNA, Block's group has been able to measure, in real time, the motion of a single molecule of RNA polymerase as it moves from base to base along the DNA template. A remarkable opportunity to gain insight into one of the most fundamental biological processes of life, this colloquium can not be missed!