CBE Seminar Series: Professor Lorna Dougan
Multiscale mechanics of protein networks: From bionanomachines to biomaterials
Proteins are bionanomachines. These workhorses of the cell are responsible for a vast array of biological functions. Acting in isolation or as part of complex machinery, they perform their function through structural and mechanical changes. Inspired by their specific mechanical properties and diverse functionality, globular folded proteins are versatile nanoscale building blocks for creating responsive biomaterials. However, a major challenge is to construct a theory that connects the mechanical properties of an individual protein and the collective response of a protein network.
Here, I will describe our recent efforts to modulate the nanoscale mechanics of single proteins to control their unfolding during protein network formation. We exploit the chemical and mechanical responsiveness of single functional proteins to provide an important route to finely tune the architecture, mechanics, and dynamic relaxation of protein networks. Such predictive control will be advantageous for future biomaterials for applications which require responsive and dynamic modulation of mechanical properties and biological function.
Prof. Dougan is a professor of physics and director of research and innovation in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds. She is an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) fellow and an EPSRC public engagement champion. Prof. Dougan is a physicist by training (MPhys and PhD, University of Edinburgh). In 2020 she was awarded the Water Woman award for Research Excellence. In 2018 she was awarded the British Biophysical Society Young Investigator Medal for her research on the physics of living systems, including single molecule manipulation, life in extreme environments and the physics of cryopreservation. She was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry MacroGroup UK Young Researchers Medal in 2013 and the Medical Research Council and Royal Society Suffrage Science Award in 2015.
Prof. Dougan currently leads an Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council Fellowship to explore multiscale biomechanics, and previously led a European Research Council Fellowship in extreme biophysics. Prof. Dougan's current research interests span hierarchical biomechanics, extreme biophysics, liquid structure, life in extreme environments and (bottom-up) synthetic biology. She is passionate about science communication and active in arts-science collaborative opportunities.
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