Biological and Soft Matter

The department is involved in a variety of biological and soft matter research areas including:

  • Nucleic Acid/Protein Dynamics and Interactions
  • RNA and Protein Folding Kinetics
  • Membrane Lipid-Protein and Lipid-Lipid Interactions
  • Structural Studies of Membranes and Membrane Proteins
  • Membrane Ion Transport and Voltage Sensing
  • Electrostatic Interactions at Soft Interfaces

using a variety of techniques including:

  • X-ray and Neutron Scattering
  • Laser Temperature-Jump
  • Single Molecular FRET
  • Fluctuation Correlation Spectroscopy
  • Microscopy and Calorimetry
  • Large-Scale Computer Simulations

Faculty Working in Biological and Soft Matter


Protein-DNA Interactions and RNA Folding

Time-resolved measurement of the conformational dynamics of protein-DNA complexes are used to unveil the energetics underlying ‘site-specific’ recognition of DNA binding sites by gene regulatory and DNA repair proteins. Folding pathways of minimal structural motifs of RNA are studied to elucidate the physical rules that govern their stability and dynamics.

Proteins and Cholesterol in Membranes

Neutron and X-ray scattering are used to probe biomembrane processes, including peripheral membrane protein binding to lipids and the role of cholesterol in the permeability, rigidity and phase behavior of biomembranes.

Electrostatic Interactions at Soft Interfaces

X-ray surface scattering investigations of fundamental electrostatic interactions at soft interfaces including ion distributions, amphiphile ordering, ion transport, and nanoparticle interactions at electrified liquid-liquid interfaces.


High-performance computing resources at UIC’s High Performance Computing Cluster and at National Labs are used to study ion transport, voltage sensing and signal transduction in membrane proteins using all-atom molecular dynamics simulations. New methodologies for simulations of membrane proteins are in development.