Assistant Professor of Physics
Research in the Woods laboratory uses far-infrared or THZ spectroscopy to understand the fast, collective fluctuations that take place in nucleic acid systems. These low energy fluctuations, although poorly understood, are believed to have a strong influence on harnessing and directing energy during the onset of a chemical or biochemical reaction. In this view, these fast, coherent fluctuations taking place in nucleic acids provide a means of directly funneling energy into specific modes (motions) or subset of modes and as a consequence favorably manipulate the probability of overcoming energy barriers in the transition state. For instance, theoretical investigations have uncovered that changes in the weak interactions taking place in nucleic acids, which occur on the timescale of about 1 picosecond or equivalently a frequency of 1 THz (terahertz), have a strong influence on the fast conformational dynamics that have been associated with processes such as biomolecule-ligand binding and recognition as well as the collective, atomic motions that are necessary for initiating specific chemical reaction pathways. It is for these reasons that the study of these fast fluctuations with THz spectroscopy offers the possibility of providing new insight into the onset of many fundamental chemical and biological processes for which nucleic acids play an important role.
Lab Webpage: http://www.cmu.edu/physics/people/faculty/woods.html