A friend of mine, Dan Chen, works on active microtubule systems and the results from his work have spawned a new project in the lab I work in. Microtubules are rigid rod-like filaments (think PVC pipes) that make up the “train tracks” for cargo transport inside the cell. Cargo is moved along the microtubules by motor proteins that more or less look like stick-figures that step along the tubes. If you attach two motors by their heads, instead of walking down the tubes, the double motor will make the two attached tubes slide past each other to make a chemically driven network that moves in a pretty mesmerizing way. Here is a video he captured using confocal microscopy! The microtubules are the bright rods that bundle together, and the motor proteins are too small to be seen.
My alma mater, Gonzaga University, wrote a short bio on me. There are pros and cons to studying science at a liberal arts school. The science culture that shows you how to approach Physics problems doesn’t really exist. However, classes in Art, Philosophy, and English impacted my broader approach to life. Maybe this is bull, who knows? You can read the bio here.
Designing experiments is hard. It is difficult to create something that is both simple enough to understand fully AND useful at the same time. For this reason, I am particularly impressed with a paper by Hunter and Weeks; it is creative and elegant.
They simulate three discs in a circular container and measure the free energy landscape of the system (something that is often too abstract to visualize or to be of any practical use). Their paper has influenced the way I approach problems, so I figured I’d share their paper with you!
Something really cool happens when you add a small droplet of acid to a silk solution. Here, I’ve added a drop of acid out of the frame (to the bottom-right). As the acid diffuses into the frame, confocal reflectance microscopy shows how the proteins aggregate into really big structures!
Look out for a publication that describes this in detail (hopefully) shortly.