Chirality leads to self-limited self-assembly

Simple building blocks that self-assemble into ordered structures with controlled sizes are essential for nanomaterials applications, but what are the general design principles for molecules that undergo self-terminating self-assembly? The question is addressed in a recent paper in Physical Review Letters by Yasheng Yang, graduate student in Physics, working together with Profs. Meyer and Hagan,  The paper considers molecules that self assemble to form filamentous bundles, and shows that chirality, or asymmetry with respect to a molecule’s mirror image, can result in stable self-limited structures. Using modern computational techniques, the authors demonstrate that chirality frustrates long range order and thereby terminates assembly upon formation of regular self-limited bundles.  With strong interactions, however, the frustration is relieved by defects, which give rise to branched networks or irregular bundles.

Figure: (a) Snapshots of regular chiral bundles. Free energy calculations and dynamics demonstrate that the optimal diameter decreases with increasing chirality. (b) Branched bundles form with strong interactions

NSF gives Zvonimir Dogic Teacher-Scholar award

Asst. Professor of Physics Zvonimir Dogic has won a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development Program. The five-year award supports junior faculty who “exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through oustanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations,” according to the NSF. Dogic’s research seeks to explain how biopolymers organize themselves into macroscopic materials.

Physics Department welcomes new faculty member Aparna Baskaran

The physics department welcomes its newest faculty member, Professor Aparna Baskaran. Professor Baskaran is a theorist who studies non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and its biophysical applications.

Simulating viral capsid assembly

Viral capsids assemble into complex structures with high fidelity, but also can adapt when given other nucleic acids cargoes to package. In a recent paper in Nano Letters, Brandeis physics grad student Oren Elrad and Professor Michael Hagan used computer simulations to investigate the mechanisms by which this occurs. These simulations were done on the Brandeis High Performance Computing cluster.

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