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Research Interests

Our research focuses on developing and applying state-of-the-art single-molecule methods to characterize and understand the properties of nanoscale materials and biological systems. Compared with traditional ensemble measurements, the single molecule approach removes ensemble averaging, so that distributions and fluctuations of molecular properties can be characterized and transient intermediates identified. The single-molecule techqniues we employ include single-molecule fluorescence imaging, single-molecule FRET, single-molecule tracking, super-resolution localization microscopy, and magnetic tweezers. Our research program provides students with scientific training spanning from sophisticated microscopy/spectroscopy techniques, rigorous data analyses to protein and genetic engineering using modern molecular biology techniques, as well as nanotechnology and nanomaterials. Currently our research has the following directions (each with a few exemplary publications).

(1) Single-molecule catalysis.

This research direction in our group is to develop and apply single-molecule methods to study the catalytic, photocatalytic, electrocatalytic, and photoelectrocatalytic properties of nanoscale materials and small molecule catalysts. Currently, we are working on:

  • Single-nanoparticle catalysis
  • Electrocatalysis
  • Photoelectrocatalysis for solar energy conversion
    • Catalyst modification of photoanodes for solar water splitting; e.g., Nature 2016.
  • Polymerization catalysis
    • Single-polymer growth dynamics during living polymerization; e.g., Science 2017.

(2) Single-molecule bioinorganic/biophysical chemistry.

Here we develop and apply single-molecule methods to understand how metalloproteins function both in vitro and in living cells (i.e., bioinorganic chemistry) as well as how protein folding occurs in living cells (i.e., biophysical chemistry). Our current efforts focus on: