Rutgers University Department of Physics and Astronomy

2008-09 Handbook for Physics and Astronomy Graduate Students

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Research Programs


The recent technological advances in molecular biology forces us to take a more quantitative take on the subject. Mathematical and physical approaches in biology cover a wide variety of topics. They incorporate well established disciplines like molecular biophysics and structural biology to resurgent areas like system level dynamical analysis of biochemical networks. Rutgers faculty, in Physics and in other departments, are pursuing this approach to reach a deeper understanding of biology.

Professor Gyan Bhanot

A major focus of my research is the identification of clinical markers from data on human cancer tissue and cell lines using modalities such as microarray, miRNA, mass-spectrometry etc. The goal is to identify subtypes of disease and characteristic signatures for cancer initiation, progression and metastasis, particularly those which can improve patient management and provide targets for drug therapy. I am also interested in identifying, understanding and modeling mutation, selection, virus/host adaptation and evolutionary phylogeny and dynamics of HIV and Human and Avian Flu. Another area of interest is Evolutionary Population Genetics including human migration, phylogeny, disease association studies and patterns of mutations correlated with longevity and complex disease phenotypes.

Professor Ronald M. Levy (Chemistry)

We use computer simulations and statistical mechanics to study the structure, function, folding, and dynamics of proteins. Current research projects include the study of mechanisms for molecular recognition by proteins, homology modeling, and protein dynamics on longer time scales.  We are interested in the interplay between computational models and experimental studies of biological assemblies at different levels of resolution. We are engaged in research in the area of Computational Molecular Biology - including the development of computational tools which will be useful for predicting the functions and structures of newly sequenced genes, as well as for studying the basic physical principles of protein folding.

Professor Alexandre Morozov

The goal of my current research is to analyze gene regulation on a whole-genome scale using methods from physics and statistics, including the stochastic and deterministic variations caused by environmental signals, developmental stage, and disease state.  Broadly speaking, I seek to improve the current understanding of the "transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory code" that links the DNA sequence with gene expression levels. To this end, I and the members of my lab study chromatin structure and its effect on gene regulation,biophysical models of protein evolution, and evolution and energetics of DNA-binding proteins.

Professor Wilma Olson (Chemistry)

Our research combines a variety of computational approaches (e.g.,Metropolis-Monte Carlo, energy minimization, polymer statistical mechanics, normal mode analysis) with developments in polymer theory to study the sequence, structure, properties, and function of nucleic acids at different levels of resolution. Problems of current interest include: elastic models of the long threadlike DNA double helix that account for its local structure, direct recognition, mesoscopic looping, super coiling and knotting; conformational changes, including the overstretching and over twisting of single molecules; electrostatic effects governing macromolecular structure and recognition; interactions with proteins, drugs, and carcinogens.

Professor Anirvan Sengupta

Our research aims to understand information processing in the cellular enviroment. We are mostly focused on studying signaling and transcription. Our interests range from information theory of signaling cascades to bioinformatic tools for discovery of the transcriptional networks that affect gene expression as a result signaling events. We are also analyzing bistable genetic systems that can hold two different states for the same external cue. Currently, to complement our computational and theoretical work, we have set up a wet lab in the Waksman Institute to test our predictions and to generate data for further model building.

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Revised May, 2008