The 2014 Buhl Lecture

  • Professor of Molecular & Cell Biology, Physics and Chemistry
  • Raymond and Beverly Sackler Chair of Physics
  • University of California, Berkeley
Distinguished Lecture Series

Biochemistry and Biophysics, One Molecule at a Time: When Less is More

Forces and torques play an important role in many biological phenomena, from molecular binding and catalysis to the segregation of chromosomes and muscle contraction. How do forces and torques affect molecular behavior and how do these arise from the interactions between molecules? The answers to these questions have only begun to emerge during the last two decades through the advent and development of methods of single molecule manipulation. With these methods, it has been possible to follow in real time the behavior of individual molecules subjected to the effects of force or torque and to measure the forces and torques generated in the course of their reactions. In this lecture, Bustamante will survey work done by his lab, including research conducted two decades ago that established the initial characterization of both extensional and torsional DNA-elasticity, and more recent projects that examine the mechanical unfolding and refolding of proteins and RNA and the inner workings of various complex molecular machines. He will also discuss how his laboratory’s studies have benefited from parallel developments in the understanding of the statistical physics of irreversible processes in microscopic systems and how these fundamental results can be used to learn about the energetics of complex molecular processes.


Carlos Bustamante  uses novel methods of single-molecule visualization, such as scanning force microscopy, to study the structure and function
of nucleoprotein assemblies. His laboratory is developing methods of single-molecule manipulation, such as optical and magnetic tweezers,
to characterize the elasticity of DNA, to induce the mechanical unfolding of individual protein and RNA molecules, and to investigate the machine-like behavior of molecular motors. Dr. Bustamante is a professor of molecular and cell biology and of chemistry, and is the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Chair of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 2000

A reception will follow the lecture.

About the Series: The Buhl Chair in Theoretical Physics was established at Carnegie Mellon by the Buhl Foundation in 1961.  The chair was to be filled by an outstanding theoretical scientist who would both impact theoretical research and help establish directions for experimental investigations. The lectures are open to the public.

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