News

  • Research

The most powerful supercomputer in the world for academic research has established its mission for the coming year.The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) announced that the National Science Foundation has approved allocations of supercomputing time on Frontera to 49 science projects for 2020-2021. Time on Frontera is awarded based on a project’s need for very large scale computing to make science and engineering discoveries, and the ability to efficiently use a supercomputer on the scale of Frontera.

“Our generous allocation of compute time on Frontera makes it possible to perform uniquely large-scale, data-driven simulations of key brain cell networks involved in memory with unprecedented biological realism,” Soltesz said.Another awardee, Caroline Riedl, research assistant professor of Physics at the University of Illinois, is part of a large international collaboration analyzing particle collision data from the Super Proton Synchrotron at CERN. Riedl was awarded 1.5 million hours to unravel the mass of hadrons and the quark structure of protons. Her work will analyze past particle physics experiments from the COMPASS experiment and explore new detectors for quantum chromodynamics research (COMPASS++/AMBER).”We were very excited to learn that our request for an LRAC allocation on TACC’s Frontera was approved,” Riedl said.

  • Research
  • Biological Physics
  • Theoretical Biological Physics
  • Biophysics

Scientists have simulated every atom of a light-harvesting structure in a photosynthetic bacterium that generates energy for the organism. The simulated organelle behaves just like its counterpart in nature, the researchers report. The work is a major step toward understanding how some biological structures convert sunlight into chemical energy, a biological innovation that is essential to life.

The researchers report their findings in the journal Cell.

The team originally was led by University of Illinois Physics Professor Klaus Schulten and the work continued after Schulten’s death in 2016. The study fulfills, in part, Schulten’s decades-long dream of discovering the mechanisms by which atomic-level interactions build and animate living systems.

  • Research
  • Theoretical Biological Physics
  • Biological Physics
  • Biophysics

While watching the production of porous membranes used for DNA sorting and sequencing, University of Illinois researchers wondered how tiny steplike defects formed during fabrication could be used to improve molecule transport. They found that the defects – formed by overlapping layers of membrane – make a big difference in how molecules move along a membrane surface. Instead of trying to fix these flaws, the team set out to use them to help direct molecules into the membrane pores.

Their findings are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Nanopore membranes have generated interest in biomedical research because they help researchers investigate individual molecules – atom by atom – by pulling them through pores for physical and chemical characterization. This technology could ultimately lead to devices that can quickly sequence DNA, RNA or proteins for personalized medicine.

  • Accolades

Thirty-eight research groups at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been allocated new computation time on the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This round of allocations provides over 17 million node-hours, equivalent to over half a billion core hours, and is valued at over $10.5 million, helping Illinois researchers push the boundaries of innovation and frontier science discovery.

  • Research
  • Biological Physics

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have predicted new physics governing compression of water under a high-gradient electric field. Physics Professor Aleksei Aksimentiev and his post doctoral researcher James Wilson found that a high electric field applied to a tiny hole in a graphene membrane would compress the water molecules travelling through the pore by 3 percent. The predicted water compression may eventually prove useful in high-precision filtering of biomolecules for biomedical research.

  • Research
  • Biological Physics
  • Biophysics

A new synthetic enzyme, crafted from DNA rather than protein, flips lipid molecules within the cell membrane, triggering a signal pathway that could be harnessed to induce cell death in cancer cells.   

Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Cambridge say their lipid-scrambling DNA enzyme is the first in its class to outperform naturally occurring enzymes – and does so by three orders of magnitude. They published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

  • In the Media
  • Biological Physics

In a paper in Nano Letters ("Optical Voltage Sensing Using DNA Origami"), a research team, led by Keyser, Philip Tinnefeld from the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at Technical University Braunschweig, and Aleksei Aksimentiev from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has now reported for the first time, that a voltage can be read out in a nanopore with a dedicated Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) sensor on a DNA origami.

  • Accolades
  • Biological Physics
  • Biophysics
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Associate Professor Aleksei Aksimentiev and Assistant Professor Shinsei Ryu have each received the 2015 Dean's Award for Excellence in Research from the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. The two were recognized for their trailblazing research that represents significant contributions to their respective fields. They each received their awards at a College of Engineering faculty awards banquet on Monday, April 27, 2015.