Spotlight on new faculty: Sangjin Kim, Biological Physics

Jessica Raley for Illinois Physics

The Physics Department at Illinois welcomes an extraordinary set of ten new faculty members this year. Eight of them have arrived on campus and have begun setting up their labs and settling into life in Champaign-Urbana. Two more faculty are set to arrive in January. We will feature each of them here over the next couple of weeks. Check back regularly to learn more about the exciting work these new faculty members are doing.


Professor Sangjin Kim (center) works with undergraduate students Zach Wang (left) and  Kavya Vaidya.
Professor Sangjin Kim (center) works with undergraduate students Zach Wang (left) and Kavya Vaidya.

Professor Sangjin Kim

Sangjin Kim is a biological physicist who brings both graduate work in single-molecule biophysics and postdoctoral research in microbiology to her research plan at Illinois. She developed the first study to establish that DNA has an allosteric property, which is a term used for long-distance transmission of atomic-level changes within a macromolecule (like proteins), allowing for critical regulation of the macromolecule’s function. She now hopes to extend that work by building a new microscope that would allow her to twist individual DNA molecules to see how the coils propagate along the DNA. This research would shed new light on our understanding of how many RNA polymerases move on DNA simultaneously. Sangjin says, “We can see how cars are moving on the highway, right? We can install a camera and we can see how the traffic changes over time at that location.” Currently, we don’t have a traffic camera for RNA polymerases. This new microscope would allow us to finally see how these motor proteins move along the DNA and simultaneously affect its mechanics, while discovering answers to fundamental questions about gene expression.

To learn more about Sangjin's research, or to inquire about working in her lab, please visit her lab website.

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