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March 07, 2014

Buhl Lecturer To Discuss DNA Molecules on March 25

By Jocelyn Duffy

BustamonteWithin all living cells is a network of complex molecular machines that carry out the functions essential for survival. Molecular motors move proteins from place to place, connect enzymes with their substrates and unravel and copy DNA.

And just as with non-living machines and motors, physical forces drive the movement of the motors inside of the cell.

Understanding these physical forces is key to knowing how cells work. This year's Buhl Lecturer, Carlos Bustamante, has developed novel methods using magnetic beads, atomic force microscopes and laser tweezers to measure and manipulate the forces within DNA and other macromolecules.

Most notably, Bustamante, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Chair of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley, was the first to use laser tweezers to trap and stretch DNA molecules. This allowed his research group to measure the DNA's elasticity and study the mechanics involved in DNA replication.

BustamonteIn his lecture, titled "Biochemistry and Biophysics One Molecule at a Time: When Less is More," Bustamante will discuss how forces can affect molecular behavior and the methods his lab has been using to study molecular interactions.

Bustamante is also a professor of molecular and cell biology and a professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley and has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 2000. He has received the Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics from the National Academy of Science, the Hans Neurath Prize from the Protein Society and the Biological Physics Prize from the American Physical Society.

Sponsored by the Department of Physics, the Buhl Lecture is funded under the auspice of the Buhl Professorship in Theoretical Physics, which was established in 1961 by The Buhl Foundation.