Constraints and Frustration in Nano-Structured and Biomolecular Materials @ Brandeis University
Advances in materials science and biology have become increasingly intertwined with progress in one field influencing the other. Brandeis has been at the forefront of this development, both in studying the properties of materials occurring in biological systems, and in understanding the role of material properties in the structure and function of cells and cellular components. The central theme of the proposed MRSEC at Brandeis, with the single IRG "Emergent Properties Due to Constraints", is the development of this relationship between biology and materials science using two complementary approaches. In a "bottom-up"approach, we will build on our expertise in the understanding of relatively simple material and chemical systems (liquid crystals, colloids, polymers, oscillating chemical reactions). We will explore how the addition of constraints typically found in biology -confinement, crowding, and local forces that compete with and sometimes frustrate long range order -leads to emergent properties, in the realms of both structure and dynamics. In a complementary "top-down"approach, we will study functional cellular components, which are complex combinations of materials with specific constraints. We will make qualitative and quantitative analyses of their structure and properties, and then deconstruct these "devices" by modifying or removing constraints, to understand just how the combination of materials and constraints leads to biological function. These dual approaches constitute a transformative program of research which changes our view of materials as incorporated in biological systems and likewise our view of biological systems as material structures. It will establish a new understanding of both how functioning biological systems are built from their carefully constrained material components, and how to design and control material constraints, to copy nature and build synthetic functional nanosystems.