Using biophysics to engineer entirely new materials
Constructing mathematical models of “cellular vibrations” is an early…and enormous step.
Camelia Prodan, associate professor of physics at NJIT, was recently awarded a $1 million science and engineering research grant by the W.M. Keck Foundation to investigate the mechanics of microtubules.
Microtubules are protein tubes that are central to the structure of a cell as well as a number of cellular processes. Dr. Prodan’s co-principal investigator on the grant is her husband, Emil Prodan, a physics professor at Yeshiva University.
Combining theoretical physics, mathematics and biology, Dr. Prodan and her colleagues explore the vibrational energy that moves across the surface or edge of a cell’s microtubules.
The team’s research, which uses mathematics and a computational lab to model complex constructs, promises to shed light on issues such as how chemotherapy drugs work in targeting the structure of cancer cells. Dr. Prodan’s findings may also lead to a range of practical applications like metamaterials with novel properties and functionalities, such as bullet-proof shielding that disperses the shock along the surface of the material and away from the deeper layers protecting the body.