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A list of the Institute principal investigators, past and present, organized alphabetically by last name. Jump to list names starting with - B, F, M , or S.


  • Howard Berg - Rowland
    Bacterial Behavior and Motility
    We study bacteria, the simplest free-living single-celled organisms. We are interested in how they sense changes in their environment, analyze sensory data, and respond in a purposeful manner. Our quest is an understanding of behavior at the molecular level and our primary subject is the peritrichously-flagellated organism Escherichia coli.

  • Steven M. Block - Current
    Single Molecule Biophysics
    Research in our lab marries aspects of physics and biology to study the properties of proteins or nucleic acids at the level of single macromolecules and molecular complexes. Experimental tools include laser-based optical traps ("optical tweezers") and a variety of state-of-the-art fluorescence techniques, in conjunction with custom-built instrumentation for the nanometer-level detection of displacements and piconewton-level detection of forces.

  • Michael Burns - Rowland
    Over the years I've participated in a number of, to me, facinating projects. I have found no particular common thread other than simple curiousity coupled with an opportunity to indulge that curiousity, and equally curious colleagues. Some of the current and past projects are described herein.

  • Ava Chase - Rowland
    Animal Behavior
    Using discrimination tasks we explore the perceptual and cognitive capabilities in fish.

  • Dongmin Chen - Rowland | Current
    Nanoscale Quantum Physics
    The main thrust of our group is to explore novel quantum phenomena in nanoscale materials using scanning tunneling microscopy in an ultra high vacuum, low temperature and high magnetic field environment.

  • Louis Cincotta - Rowland
    Photomedicine and Photobiology
    Supramolecular chemistry of the phenothiazine moeity and design of photosensitizers for the photo-inactivation of viruses. Isolation of anti-cancer agents from natural products and the exploration of tumor immunotherapies through the use of photodynamically generated tumor associated antigens.

  • David Cox - Current
    Humans recognize visual objects with such ease that it is easy to overlook what an impressive computational feat this represents. Any given object in the world can cast an effectively infinite number of different images onto the retina, depending on its position relative to the viewer, the configuration of light sources, and the presence of other objects in the visual field. In spite of this extreme variation, biological visual systems are able to effortlessly recognize at least hundreds of thousands of distinct object classes—a feat that no current artificial system can come close to achieving. Our laboratory seeks to understand the neuronal mechanisms that enable this ability by reverse engineering simple biological visual systems. It is our hope that this work leads to a greater understanding of how our own brain works and to the construction of improved artificial visual systems.

  • Ben de Bivort - Rowland
    Evolution & Neurobiology
    The animal kingdom has immense morphological diversity, but even greater behavioral diversity. We study how evolution generates behavioral diversity, particularly how natural genetic variation modifies neural circuits and circuit properties in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and related species. We are also studying how fungal insect parasites target healthy neural circuits to modify walking behavior in living hosts. These questions are addressed using versatile Drosophila genetic tools, high resolution single animal behavioral assays, and fluorescent genetically-encoded indicators of neural circuit activity.

  • Zvonimir Dogic - Rowland | Current
    Complex Fluids and Condensed Matter
    The objective of our research is to understand and control the self-assembly of matter on a colloidal length scale. The basic building blocks used are colloids of chemical or biological origin with well controlled spherical or rod-like shape and polymers with varying persistence length. The interactions between these components are well understood and can be modified in systematic ways. Despite the simplicity of these building blocks, they assemble into a variety of novel structures with unexpected complexity, e.g. 2D smectic phases, colloidal membranes, twisted chiral ribbons, and lamellar and columnar phases. These processes of self-assembly are under thermodynamic control and we use statistical mechanics to understand the final equilibrium structures. In the future we intend to study the assembly, phase transitions and dynamics of colloidal systems under non-equilibrium conditions

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  • Alessandra Ferzoco - Rowland
    Reactions useful for the conversion of light energy into chemical energy are often complex because they require multiple charge transfer steps. Coupling electron and proton transfer facilitates these reactions by avoiding the high-energy intermediates found if electrons and protons are transferred individually and by enabling multiple charge transfer steps at one location. Our lab seeks to understand the types of chemical structures and environments that promote concerted electron/proton transfer by studying how ion structure changes in going from the ground state to electronically excited states. To accomplish these studies our lab works at the intersection between mass spectrometry and laser spectroscopy. We develop custom instrumentation to generate and trap ions and ion-molecule complexes, control their temperature, and then interrogate them by various types of spectroscopy.

  • Peer Fischer - Rowland | Current
    Symmetry and Chirality
    Our research focuses on the interaction of molecules with optical, magnetic, and electric fields. We are interested in a diverse spectrum of phenomena, ranging from light-matter interactions to electromagnetic forces. A specific aim is to develop new experimental methods and instrumentation for the detection of molecules and the separation of enantiomers.

  • James Foley - Rowland
    Photochemistry and Photobiology
    Our research interests center on understanding fundamental structure/function relationships pertaining to the photophysics that govern the properties and behavior of organic dyes. We use this knowledge to develop improved chromophores for use in biophysical, biological and medical applications such as single molecule detection, fluorescent reporting and photodynamic therapy. Our approach encompasses nearly every aspect that is essential to such an undertaking including computer-aided design, chemical synthesis and photophysical characterization of target dyes.

  • Jean-Marc Fournier - Rowland
    Optical Structures
    Research in how light interacts with matter : Lippmann photography (historical full-color photography process), developement of very high resolution photosensitive materials, optical trapping, holography, and an ultra-sensitive phase imaging microscope.

  • Lene Vestergaard Hau - Rowland | Current
    Bose-Einstein Condensation and Non-Linear Optics
    Research centered on cold atoms and Bose-Einstein condensation. Using laser cooling to efficiently precool atoms to temperatures in the microkelvin regime, then subsequently, the atoms are trapped in a 4 Dee magnet and evaporatively cooled to nanokelvin temperatures. This results in the creation of Bose-Einstein condensates typically containing millions of atoms. The condensates are formed in an ultra high vacuum system constructed for easy access to and manipulation of cold atom clouds with light probes and mechanical structures.

  • Winfield Hill - Rowland
    Electronics Engineering
    My lab pursues R & D projects that push the envelope of scientific instrumentation. We do this by applying technologies from diverse fields to create unique instruments, and by learning and applying advanced circuit-design knowledge to endow otherwise common-place instruments with superior performance.

  • Jeffrey Hoch - Rowland | Current
    We study protein structure, dynamics, and stability. We try to understand how these properties relate to biological function. Our principal tool is NMR spectroscopy, but we also rely on other biophysical techniques.

  • SJ Claire Hur - Rowland
    Biomedical Engineering
    Single-cell deformability has been recently identified as a critical biomarker for various diseases and it varies considerably based on phenotypes. Current cell deformability measurement techniques, however, are inherently low throughput for statistical analysis of large heterogeneous biological samples. We focus on developing high-throughput microfluidic techniques for measuring intrinsic properties of single cells, including intracellular viscosity, membrane tension/elasticity and Young's modulus. These measurements will allow us to identify potential genetic-alterations and phenotype-changes, responsible for modification in such properties of cells. Furthermore, systematic determination of single-cell mechanical properties in a rapid and standardized manner will expedite an adoption of aforementioned properties as new types of biomarkers for phenotype characterizations. These newly revealed biomarkers should provide efficient tools for determining the cell state and phenotype, which are potentially useful for cancer diagnostics and prognostics, cell-based therapeutics as well as developmental biology.

  • Elizabth Kane - Rowland
    Systems neuroscience aims to explain animal behavior through the organization and function of the nervous system. Vertebrate nervous systems are so large and complex that behavior cannot currently be mapped to complete sensorimotor pathways. To do this, one must turn to simpler genetic model organisms to gain a systems-level understanding of the fundamental principles by which neural circuits generate diverse behaviors. The lab seeks to understand how brains convert sensory inputs into behavioral outputs at a systems neural circuit level using interdisciplinary techniques from biophysics, genetics and neuroscience. The lab utilizes the innate light avoidance behavior (negative phototaxis) of the Drosophila larva as a model system.

  • Kristin Lewis - Rowland | Current
    Ecology & Botany
    Parasitic angiosperms are unusual among parasitic organisms in that they and their hosts are in the same order and are very similar physiologically. The comparable physiology of parasite and host enables the parasite to create direct connections with host-plant conductive tissues and cells. Additionally, the host and parasite are influenced by similar endogenous and exogenous physiological cues. We are interested in what kinds of information can be shared across the host-parasite boundary and how this affects both plants' responses to environmental conditions. Our research focuses on the use of novel methodology to track transfer of resources and signaling molecules between host and parasite.

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  • Amit Meller - Rowland | Current
    Single Molecule Biophysics
    We study the dynamics of individual DNA and RNA molecules threaded through a nanomete scale pore (“nanopore”). The threading of the negatively charged biopolymers is made possible by an electric field applied across the nanopore. Controlling the magnitude of the field in real time allow us to apply a varying force on the molecule and study its response. In this way we are able to detect the interactions of polynucleotides with proteins, and study secondary structure formation in RNA. The structure of the single molecule is probed using time-resolved Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer and single channel ion current measurements.

  • Venky Narayanamurti - Rowland
    Semiconductor Electronic Materials
    Research within the Narayanamurti Group is directed at the physics of hot electron- and hole- transport in novel semiconductor electronic materials and devices. A key goal is to study quantum confinement effects in nanostructures. The group interacts with similar electronic materials efforts at other universities, government, and industrial research laboratories.

  • John Osterhout - Rowland | Current
    Studies of a helical hairpin peptide, alpha -turn-alpha, which is a de novo designed helix-turn-helix peptide using Circular Dichroism (CD) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)

  • Jiwoong Park - Rowland | Current
    Nanoelectronics and Nanosensors
    The electrical conductance of many nanoscale materials is strongly affected by a local electrostatic and electrochemical environment. This unique property can be utilized to build a nanosensor whose spatial resolution is comparable to the size of the sensor itself. The objective of our research is to investigate the electron transport properties of various nanoscale materials, including carbon nanotubes, semiconducting nanowires and single molecules, and to develop nanoscale sensors based on them.

  • Joel Parks - Rowland
    Trapped Ion Dynamics
    Electron diffraction measurements of isolated, single sized clusters stored in ion traps is being applied to the study of small (n ~10-50 atoms) metal clusters including Aun and Agn. These measurements are directed to better understand and exploit the dependence of catalytic reactivity on cluster structure and temperature. Sensitive methods developed to measure laser-induced fluorescence from <10 trapped ions are being applied to study the dynamics of DNA in gas phase. Temperature dependent measurements demonstrate these methods will be useful to characterize conformational change in gas phase biomolecules. Sequential loss of electrons from trapped DNA anions has been observed for the first time and experiments suggest DNA conformations may be a determining factor.

  • Qimin Quan -Rowland
    Nanoscale Sensors and Systems
    Our lab seeks to understand novel optical phenomena in nanoscale structures and apply these novel phenomena to build functional devices. Optical cavities and nanostructures provide powerful means for modifying the interactions between light and matter, and have many exciting applications from quantum communications to sensors. We are interested in developing high-sensitivity, high-throughput biomedical sensors towards the realization of a portable instrument. We are also interested in combining the light manipulation method with functional materials, such as polymers and carbon nanotubes to realize new functions.

  • Shriram Ramanathan - Rowland
    Oxides and thin films
    Research in our group is primarily focused on oxide thin films and nanostructures with emphasis on understanding how processing affects properties. Research activities include developing mechanistic understanding of initial stages of oxidation of metals and oxygen incorporation into oxides under photon irradiation. Phase evolution in oxides and their stability as a function of temperature and doping is investigated using combination of structural, electrical and electrochemical studies. Quantitative determination of oxygen concentration in nanoscale oxides and research on techniques to precisely control oxygen stoichiometry at interfaces are also being actively pursued. Potential applications of our research include electronic devices, solar and hydrogen energy conversion, sensors.

  • Chris Richards - Rowland
    My lab explores how muscles move limbs to power swimming. Muscle is a spectacularly efficient and powerful motor which drives behaviors that impress biologists and engineers alike. How do aquatic animals accelerate rapidly or maneuver precisely at high swimming speeds? Intuition tells us that high performance swimming, such as prey capture or escaping, demands high muscle power. However, we cannot often predict the muscle power required for a given swimming task. Moreover, we do not fully understand how nerves communicate with muscles to achieve the exquisite control of swimming performance seen in nature. My lab seeks to understand the physiological basis for how nature's swimming machines (e.g. frogs, fish, aquatic insects) solve the difficult engineering problem of moving rapidly through water.

  • S

  • Ozgur Sahin - Rowland | Current
    Nanomechanical Sensing
    At the molecular level, physical and chemical properties of materials are tightly coupled to the mechanical properties. The potential of mechanics for interacting with matter at the nanoscale has been largely unexplored due to lack of instruments capable of performing mechanical measurements at nanometer length scales. Our research focuses on developing tools and techniques to perform nanomechanical measurements and applying them to problems in materials science, cell biology, and molecular biology.

  • Yuki Sato - Rowland
    Applied Matter & Devices
    One of the overarching themes of our research is the investigations and applications of quantum coherent matter. In superconductors, superfluids, and Bose-Einstein condensates, a large fraction of constituent particles can occupy the same quantum ground state and behave in many ways as a single entity. We are interested in not only studying fascinating properties of such state of matter but also applying them as a set of tools to elucidate some subtleties of the quantum world. With disregard for presumed boundaries between applied physics, material science, and engineering, we also develop metamaterials and devices whose novel properties do not naturally exist in nature. Our current interests include superfluid and superconducting Josephson phenomena, nano/micro/meta-materials & devices, inertial sensing technologies, matter wave interferometry, and force/displacement sensing limits.

  • Robert Savoy - Rowland
    Brain mapping research using temporal resolution of fMRI to drive novel experimental design.

  • Diane Schaak - Rowland

    Having a diverse background in biophysical sciences, with emphasis on maintaining the biological aspects of experimental systems, I advise and assist both Senior and Junior Scientists here at Rowland in developing biologically relevant laboratory experiments. Available for use are two clean rooms, one for nanofabrication and the other for cell culture.

  • Ethan Schonbrun - Rowland

    In biotechnology and medical diagnostics there is a large demand for the analysis of enormous sets of samples. Optical detection systems such as micro-array scanners, flow cytometers, and fluorescence microscopes are the standard work horse instrumentation for these applications. While these systems have proven successful, they are frequently based on the frame of a standard optical microscope which has tradeoffs in field of view, resolution, and light collection. By designing optical systems using a priori knowledge of the sample, many of these tradeoffs can be circumvented. In the MOIRE lab, we will investigate optical detection systems based on microfabricated components, such as lens arrays, computer generated holograms, and artificial dielectrics. By integrating these components with microfluidics and high speed cameras, we hope to realize a new generation of optical diagnostic devices.

  • Frans Spaepen - SEAS website
    Materials Science
    My interests span a wide range of experimental and theoretical topics, such as amorphous metals and semiconductors (viscosity, diffusion, mechanical properties), the structure and thermodynamics of interfaces (crystal/melt, amorphous/crystalline semiconductors, grain boundaries), mechanical properties of thin films, the perfection of silicon crystals for metrological applications, and colloidal systems as models for the study of dynamics and defects in crystals and glasses.

  • Andrew Speck - Rowland
    Ultracold Rydberg Atoms and Terahertz Spectroscopy
    The objective of our research is to study the interaction of highly excited, or Rydberg atoms, with unipolar terahertz electromagnetic pulses (half cycle pulses). These systems provide a fascinating regime in which to explore atomic states which exhibit both classical and quantum properties. The first series of experiments in my group will explore the interaction of a train of these pulses with Rydberg atoms. Further research will include the study of the magnetic properties of the half cycle pulse and their effect on atomic systems.

  • Rachel Spicer - Rowland | Current
    Plants are able to regenerate whole body parts like roots and shoots with relative ease because they demonstrate amazing cellular plasticity. Masters of dedifferentiation, plants not only retain pools of stem cells throughout their lives, but also create new stem cells in response to developmental and environmental cues. My primary interest is in the role of parenchyma cells in shaping large woody plants - namely, through their ability to dedifferentiate and generate new meristems in response to wounding, and during the transition to secondary growth. I'm interested in developing molecular and microscopy techniques to study secondary growth, including methods to image live cells in woody tissue.

  • Frank Vollmer - Rowland | Current

    Biofunctional Photonics
    We are interested in design and fabrication of photonic structures and circuits that interface, probe and manipulate biological systems with single molecule sensitivity. To reach this objective, light-matter interaction can be sufficiently enhanced by photon recirculation in micro- and nano-scale cavities that offer ultimate Q and record-low modal volume. Once established, the technique can help elucidate recognition, interaction and transformation of label-free biomolecules, the interplay of which give rise to various complex functions and networks that have evolved in the cell. Furthermore, access to a vast repertoire of functionality by self-assembly of purified or genetically altered biological components provides exciting opportunity for engineering of molecular-photonic device architecture.

  • Wesley Wong - Rowland | Current
    Single-molecule Force Studies
    We are interested in how biological systems work at the nanoscale, and the physical laws that govern their behavior. Our focus is on weak, thermally mediated interactions between and within biological molecules (e.g. base-pairing in nucleic acids, receptor-ligand bonding, protein folding, etc.), and the coupling of these interactions to mechanical force. We are currently developing and applying new techniques, based on optical tweezers and high-resolution optical detection, to study the mechanics and force-driven kinetics of single-molecules.