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Professor Taekjip Ha received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1996, from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the Physics faculty 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). He was named 2001 Searle scholar. In 2005, Dr. Ha was named an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2008, Dr. Ha was selected by the National Science Foundation to receive a grant to establish and co-direct the Center for the Physics of Living Cells at the University of Illinois.
Professor Ha has achieved many "firsts" in experimental biological physics--the first dectection of dipole-dipole interaction (fluorescence resonance energy transfer, or FRET) between two single molecules; 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 single-molecule FRET. His most recent work, using single-molecule measurements to understand protein-DNA interactions and enzyme dynamics, has led him to develop novel optical techniques, fluid-handling systems, and surface preparations.
My interest is in using physical concepts and experimental techniques to study fundamental questions in molecular biology. The biological systems under study include helicases that unzip DNA, DNA recombination intermediate called Holliday junction and its associated enzymes, folding and catalysis of hairpin and VS ribozymes, DNA replication machinery, and chromatin remodeling complexes. Our main experimental tool is single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy, supported by nano-mechanical tools such as magnetic and optical tweezers.
133 Loomis Laboratory
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