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Biological Structure

How are biological structures formed and maintained? How do these structures lead to biological function? These are central questions in biology that date back to Aristotle and beyond. The modern research disciplines of Biochemistry and Biophysics address the same fundamental questions at a molecular level using the tools and principles of chemistry and physics.

Biological Design and Function

At Pennís Johnson Research Foundation, scientists are engaged in researching into the fundamentals of biological design and function, focusing on protein engineering in three dimensions from angstroms to microns, bringing advanced chemistry and physics into biology and medicine. Molecular structure determination and molecular simulation provide critical views of biological design, engineering and assembly. A range of developing spectroscopies, protein chemistry, and molecular biological tools are directed to understand the basis of biological activity in recognition, signal transduction, gene regulation, energy transduction and biochemical catalysis.

Materials Research

The Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM), is the center for materials research at the University of Pennsylvania. It was established in 1960 as one of the first Materials Research Laboratories to be funded by ARPA. In 1972 funding was taken over by the National Science Foundation's Division of Materials Research, NSF-DMR. The core of the materials research program at the LRSM is the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, MRSEC, funded by an NSF-DMR grant, which supports the interdisciplinary research of affiliated faculty from the departments of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, Bioengineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Physiology and Biochemistry and Biophysics. These faculty members are organized into four Interdisciplinary Research Groups, each having 6-8 members, which cover the following areas of research:
  • Functional Biomolecular Materials
  • Microscale Soft Materials
  • Carbon Nanotube-Derived Materials
  • Multifunctional Complex Oxides

Smaller groups of faculty are funded through 'seed' programs in which promising new areas of research are explored. These include studies on single molecule functional nanostructures, dynamic ordering in particulates, control of structure and functionality in porous materials. The MRSEC at the LRSM also provides state-of-the-art Shared Experimental Facilities, SEFs, to support the work of both the affiliated faculty and the local research community in general. In addition, both educational and industrial outreach programs represent a significant part of the MRSEC program. The LRSM is directed by Professor Michael L. Klein from the Department of Chemistry.

The University of Pennsylvania Regional Laser and Biotechnology Laboratories (RLBL) is a facility developing technologies related to ultrafast processes in biomedical systems and providing state-of-the-art laser related instrumentation along with professional and technical laser and spectroscopic expertise. The aim is to broaden the scope of biomedical research through these developments.

The Director of the RLBL (Professor of Chemistry R. M. Hochstrasser), in-house faculty, their postdoctoral fellows and graduate students form the scientific base of the facility. A permanent staff consisting of the Head of Laser Operations and a Laser Research Specialist coordinates internal and external user projects, the scientific and technological planning aspects of the laboratories and other needs of the users.

The RLBL also provides training through the use of facility-sponsored workshops and special symposia. The RLBL periodically publishes a Newsletter which highlights results obtained at the Facility as well as presents new technological breakthroughs in the field of ultrafast laser-based spectroscopies applied to biomedical questions.

For more information on the Johnson Research Foundation, please visit http://www.med.upenn.edu/biocbiop/jf.html

For more information on the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM), visit http://www.lrsm.upenn.edu

For more information on The University of Pennsylvania Regional Laser and Biotechnology Laboratories (RLBL), please visit http://rlbl.chem.upenn.edu/

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Biological Engineering Network at the University of Pennsylvania
1010 Vagelos Research Labs / 3340 Smith Walk / Philadelphia PA 19104-6383
tel. 215-573-6813 ~ fax. 215-573-6815 ~ e-mail: ben-penn@pobox.upenn.edu