Professor of Physics Taekjip Ha has been appointed an Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor, one of the highest distinctions conferred by the University of Illinois on distinguished faculty members for achievements in research, teaching, and service that represent significant contributions within their respective fields.
Physics faculty are encouraged to attend the investiture ceremony and reception hosted by the Office of the Provost on Thursday afternoon, November 29, at 4:00 p.m. in Room 612, Institute for Genomic Biology, 1204 West Gregory Drive.
Ha has established a large, successful research group at Illinois, with collaborations both within physics and across campus. In addition to physics, he holds appointments as professor in the Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology and as a theme leader at the Institute for Genomic Biology. He is an affiliate of the Beckman Institute, the Department of Medical Biochemistry, College of Medicine, and the Department of Chemistry. He is co-director of the Center for the Physics of Living Cells, a Physics Frontiers Center funded by the National Science Foundation.
Ha has achieved many firsts in experimental biological physics—the first detection of dipole-dipole interaction (single molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer, or smFRET); the first observation of "quantum jumps" of single molecules at room temperature; the first detection of the rotation of single molecules; and the first detection of enzyme conformational changes via smFRET. His work using single-molecule measurements to understand protein-DNA interactions and helicase enzyme dynamics has led him to develop novel optical techniques, fluid-handling systems, and surface preparations that have advanced his field.
Head of Department and Professor Dale Van Harlingen said, “We are delighted to see Taekjip receive this significant recognition from the campus. Since he came here, he has been a pioneer in single-molecule imaging studies of DNA, RNA, and the helicase enzymes. His work has always been innovative, pushing the boundaries of biological physics and enabling new questions to be posed and answered. Many of the techniques he has developed are now in use in labs the world over and his interdisciplinary research with HHMI and IGB is setting the agenda for campus initiatives to understand how life evolves from and is controlled by fundamental biological processes.”
Ha received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1996 from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois in August 2000, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1997) and a postdoctoral research associate in Steven Chu's laboratory in the Department of Physics at Stanford University (1998-2000).
Ha is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the recipient of many honors. Among these, he was named Searle Scholar in 2001, was named an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2005, was selected for the Michael and Kate Bárány Award of the Biophysical Society in 2007, and was named a University Scholar at the University of Illinois in 2009. In 2011, Ha was awarded the Ho-Am Prize in Science by the Ho-Am Foundation of Korea.