Home | Directory | Contact view from Rowland Institute at Harvard

By Scientist

By Research Field

Current Research

Past Research

Research at Rowland

Rowland Junior Fellows

  • The Evolution of Behavior Group - Ben de Bivort - (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.


  • Cold Ion Spectroscopy Lab - Alessandra Ferzoco - (chemistry)

    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.


  • µFluidic Biophysics Lab - SJ Claire Hur - (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.


  • Circuits and Behavior Group - Elizabeth Kane - (neurobiology)
    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.


  • Nanoscale Sensors and Systems - Qimin Quan - (applied physics and nanotechnology)
    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.


  • Propulsion Physiology - Chris Richards - (biomechanics)

    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.


  • Applied Matter & Devices Group - Yuki Sato - (physics)

    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.


  • Microoptics and Microfluidics Group - Ethan Schonbrun - (physics)

    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.



  • Biophysical Imaging and Spectroscopy Group - Laurence Wilson - (physics)

    We are interested in understanding bacterial motility, particularly relating to the formation and propagation of biofilms. Most studies to date have focused either on macroscopic phenomena (for example, the size of colonies growing on agar plates) or on microscopic, single cell measurements. Our work focuses on the behavior of E. coli, using newly developed image processing algorithms to assess motility in much larger groups of individuals (typically around 10,000 at a time) than previously possible. We use high-throughput Fourier-space techniques, allowing the study of motility over a range of length scales from 1 micrometer to 1 millimeter, and timescales from one millisecond to several hours.



  • Rowland Senior Fellows

  • Trapped Ion Dynamics - Joel Parks – (physics)

    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.


  • Photochemistry and Photobiology - James Foley – (organic chemistry)

    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.


  • Staff Scientists

  • Associate Director for Science - Michael Burns – (physics)

    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.


  • Electronics Engineering - Winfield Hill – (technology)

    The Electronics Engineering Laboratory 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.


  • Biophysical Sciences - Diane Schaak – (biophysics)

    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.



  • Computation - Alan Stern – (mathematics)


  • Affiliated Harvard Faculty

  • Bacterial Motility and Behavior - Howard Berg – (biophysics)

    The Berg lab at Rowland is a branch of Howard Berg's lab at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology on the main Harvard campus. It investigates bacterial motility and chemotaxis using video, fluorescence, and electron microscopy. The chief target of research is the bacterium Escherichia coli, with topics ranging from the hydrodynamics of swimming with flagella to a phenomenological description of chemotactic movement to studies of the biochemical networks that allow E. coli to perform chemotaxis. Recent work includes imaging of pili-mediated twitching motility in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, high-speed video imaging of flagellar filaments during E. coli tumbling, and the creation of a Serratia marcescens 'bacterial carpet' that mixes and pumps liquid inside microfluidic channels.


  • Scanning Tunneling Microscopy Group - Venky Narayanamurti – (physics)

    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.


  • Oxides Research Group - Shriram Ramanathan – (materials science)

    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.


  • Director of Science - Frans Spaepen – (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.