The 36th Annual Karl F. Herzfeld Memorial Lecture

“Optical Tweezers: Gene Regulation, Studied One Molecule at a Time”
Steven M. Block
S.W. Ascherman Professor of the Sciences
Department of Applied Physics/Department of Biology
Stanford University, California

Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 4:00 PM
Karl Herzfeld Auditorium of Hannan Hall - Rm 108


Steven BlockRecent advances have led to the new field of single molecule biophysics. Single-molecule techniques can record characteristics that are obscured by traditional biochemical approaches, revealing the behaviors of individual biomolecules. Prominent among the new techniques is the laser-based optical trap, or ‘optical tweezers,’ which relies on radiation pressure to manipulate molecules. Optical traps can now measure biomolecular properties with a precision down the atomic level—achieving a resolution of 1 angstrom over a bandwidth of 100 Hz—while exerting controlled forces in the piconewton range. Among the successes for optical traps have been measurements of the molecular steps produced by motor proteins (for example, kinesin and myosin) and by processive nucleic-acid enzymes (for example, RNA polymerase), determinations of the strengths of the noncovalent bonds between proteins, and studies of the energetics and kinetics of structure formation by nucleic acids. Optical trapping instruments have been particularly useful in mapping the energy landscapes of folding for structured RNA molecules. Beyond that, we’re now able to follow the co-transcriptional folding of RNA in real time.


Reception Immediately Follows the Lecture

If you have any questions about the Herzfeld Lecture or would like to make a donation to the Herzfeld Lecture Memorial Fund please contact Patrick Burke, burkepa@cua.edu or (202) 319-5315.

  • Karl Herzfeld

    Karl Herzfeld

    The lecture series is named after Karl Herzfeld, former professor and chair of the Department of Physics.

    Learn More