Lessons from Nature on Engineering Molecules

Gevorg Grigoryan, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Dartmouth College

Friday, September 30, 2011, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

Living cells are remarkable nano-machines which carry out a great variety of complex tasks. They owe much of their abilities to biological macromolecules, such as proteins – polymers of amino-acid links. These molecules are able to self organize into complex structures and super-structures, allowing them to perform tasks as diverse as chemical catalysis, generation of mechanical force, and sensing of environment. The idea of self assembly of molecules into functional units is very attractive as we aim to control events on the molecular and atomic levels, in order to engineering nano-devices and novel therapeutic strategies. Therefore, learning the design principles by which Nature creates such “smart” self-organizing molecules, and learning to engineer new ones with desired properties is of critical importance. To begin addressing this challenge, we have recently developed a computational approach which can be used to design proteins that self-organize around specific surfaces. This method is exemplified in the design of peptides that assemble into a tubular structure surrounding single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). The geometrically defined, virus-like coating created by these peptides converts the smooth surfaces of SWNTs into highly textured assemblies, capable of directing the organization of gold nanoparticles into helical arrays along the SWNT axis.

About the Speaker

Dr. Gevorg Grigoryan received his B.S. degrees in Computer Science and Biochemistry from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and went on to get a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for studies in computational protein design and modeling of inter-protein interactions. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, in the laboratory of Bill DeGrado, he continued to work on designing proteins with novel functions. Recently he joined the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth College as an Assistant Professor.