Deciphering the structure and interactions of individual biomolecules
in their native cellular environment is one of the elementary problems
in biology. Recent single- molecule techniques have attempted to bridge
the gap between the information traditionally obtained on the ensemble level
where multiple copies of the same molecule operate asynchronously, and the
single-molecule limit. However, the inherent complexity of most of the cell
functions, which involves multiple reaction pathways, presents an enormous
experimental challenge for single-molecule observations because the measurements
are inherently noisier.
To circumvent these complications, we choose to work with model systems.
Much as theoretical physicists seek to describe a phenomenon by a physical
model that captures the essential ingredients of the problem, we investigate
a simplified, in vitro experimental system, which preserve the richness
of the biological process that inspires our research. This approach provides
us with the opportunity to perform clean measurements, and explore our systems
under conditions that are otherwise hard to attain. For example, we can
drive our molecules out of thermal equilibrium and monitor their reaction
kinetics. We believe that this approach will give us a better physical insight
into the biological processes and reveal their underlying laws.