CPLC second summer school a big success

Jaya Yodh
7/26/2010 12:00 AM

The Center for the Physics of Living Cells (CPLC), an NSF Physics Frontier Center that includes Illinois researchers from physics, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and electrical engineering, as well as faculty from Baylor University and The University of Notre Dame, held its 2nd annual ‘Physics of Living Cells Summer School’ from July 19-24, 2010, in Urbana.

Participating faculty included CPLC Co-Directors Taekjip Ha and Klaus Schulten, Paul Selvin, Yann Chemla, Aleksei Aksimentiev, and Nigel Goldenfeld, all from the Department of Physics, Zan Luthey-Schulten and Martin Gruebele from the Department of Chemistry, and Ido Golding and Anna Sokac from Baylor University College of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 

These researchers are pioneering the creation of synergies between different approaches, such as single-molecule and live-cell experimental techniques and biological computation and theory, to investigate biological problems such as dynamics of protein folding and gene expression in live cells, mechanics of protein-DNA interactions during replication and recombination, and structural and functional dynamics of the ribosome translational apparatus.

The Summer School, coordinated by Jaya Yodh, CPLC Director of Education and Outreach, is targeted at senior undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers in the chemical and life sciences, biophysics, physics and engineering who are looking to expand their research skills in these fields. This year's Summer School included 28 graduate students, 7 post-doctoral fellows, and 1 assistant professor, with 36 percent coming from International institutions and 22 percent of the US students coming from Midwest institutions. This year, nine of the international students are also currently participating in a ‘Junior Nanotech Network’ student exchange program between the CPLC/University of Illinois and the University of Münich.

The weeklong Summer School program included two-plus days of "basic training" elements for all participating students including lectures by CPLC faculty, a CPLC poster session, and introductory mini-courses taught by CPLC graduate students and postdocs on optics, software (Matlab, Labview), and Visual Molecular Dynamics (VMD).  A subsequent four-day "advanced module," also taught by CPLC graduate students and postdocs, offered intensive training in one of the following eleven topics based on faculty areas of expertise: 1) single-molecule FRET (Taekjip Ha); 2) single-molecule FIONA (Paul Selvin); 3) single-molecule force and optical trapping: (Yann Chemla); 4) super-resolution fluorescence microscopy (PALM/STORM) (Taekjip Ha), 5) single-event detection in living cells—bacterial swimming (Ido Golding and Yann Chemla); 6) single-event detection in living cells—phage infection (Ido Golding); 7) tracking cell surface growth in living fruit fly embryos (Anna Sokac) 8) Fast Relaxation Imaging (FReI): protein folding dynamics in living cells (Martin Gruebele); and three computational biophysics modules—9) molecular dynamics simulations of single-molecule motors (Klaus Schulten); 10) dynamical networks in protein: RNA assemblies (Zan Luthey-Schulten); and 11) observing biomolecular interactions with atomic resolution (Alek Aksimentiev).

One of the unique aspects of the CPLC Summer School is that the Center’s focus— physical quantification of processes in living cells—makes it possible to offer hands-on, on-site training. "We have a critical mass of experimentalists, computational physicists, and theorists in the Center, which also allows for integrative training in a diverse range of experimental and computational techniques," said Summer School organizer Jaya Yodh. .

Another significant impact the Summer School provides is an excellent opportunity for the Center’s own graduate students and post-doctoral fellows—a total of 25 this year—to gain valuable teaching experience to their peers. This interaction serves as an excellent foundation for knowledge transfer and networking between the next generation of scientists interested in the physics of living systems.

The value of the Summer School can be summed up in this testimonial by Ruby May Sullan, a student from University of Toronto, “...Talk about comprehensive learning, hands-on instrumentation on state-of-the-art equipment, stimulating discussions with leading fellows in their field, great interaction with fellow graduate students, nice UIUC environment, fun, fun, fun—all in a week’s time—that's CPLC summer school! One of the best weeks I’ve had!”

Recent News

  • Research

Developing a superconducting computer that would perform computations at high speed without heat dissipation has been the goal of several research and development initiatives since the 1950s. Such a computer would require a fraction of the energy current supercomputers consume, and would be many times faster and more powerful. Despite promising advances in this direction over the last 65 years, substantial obstacles remain, including in developing miniaturized low-dissipation memory.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new nanoscale memory cell that holds tremendous promise for successful integration with superconducting processors. The new technology, created by Professor of Physics Alexey Bezryadin and graduate student Andrew Murphy, in collaboration with Dmitri Averin, a professor of theoretical physics at State University of New York at Stony Brook, provides stable memory at a smaller size than other proposed memory devices.

  • In the Media

As NASA prepares for this evening’s launch of the NICER space astronomy mission, Emeritus Professor of Physics Fred Lamb of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is at the Kennedy Space Center, as a member of three of the mission’s Science Working Groups. The launch from the world-famous Pad 39A is scheduled for 5:55 P.M. EST.

Lamb, who continues to hold a post-retirement research appointment at Physics Illinois, is a world-recognized expert on the U.S. ground-based missile defense system. He served as co-chair of the American Physical Society’s Study Group on Boost-Phase Intercept for National Missile Defense, which published its report in July 2003. He has been fielding questions from the media on Tuesday's successful interception of an interncontinental ballistic missile during the latest test of its ground-based intercept system, as reported by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

Tuesday's ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California just after 3:30 p.m. EST. A little more than one hour later, the Pentagon confirmed it had successfully collided with an ICBM-class target over the Pacific Ocean, which had been launched from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 4,200 miles away.

In this Q&A, Lamb briefly turns his attention away from the pending NICER launch to answer a few questions on the current status of the U.S. Ground-Based Missile Defense System.

  • Research
  • Particle Physics
  • High Energy Physics

What do you get when you revive a beautiful 20-year-old physics machine, carefully transport it 3,200 miles over land and sea to its new home, and then use it to probe strange happenings in a magnetic field? Hopefully you get new insights into the elementary particles that make up everything.

The Muon g-2 experiment, located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, has begun its quest for those insights. This month, the 50-foot-wide superconducting electromagnet at the center of the experiment saw its first beam of muon particles from Fermilab’s accelerators, kicking off a three-year effort to measure just what happens to those particles when placed in a stunningly precise magnetic field. The answer could rewrite scientists’ picture of the universe and how it works.

  • Accolades
  • Alumni News

Congratulations to Physics Illinois alumnus M. George Craford on being presented today with the IEEE Edison Medal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The medal is awarded annually in recognition of a career of meritorious achievement in electrical science, electrical engineering, or the electrical arts. The citation reads, “for a lifetime of pioneering contributions to the development and commercialization of visible LED materials and devices.”


Craford is best known for his invention of the first yellow light emitting diode (LED). During his career, he developed and commercialized the technologies yielding the highest-brightness yellow, amber, and red LEDs as well as world-class blue LEDs. He is a pioneer whose contributions to his field are lasting.