A critical characteristic of living matter is that it is highly organized on a broad range of scales, from individual organisms all the way down to cells and molecules. At the nanoscale, critical aspects of life — including how cells move, divide, differentiate, and metabolize — depend on the positions and motions of atoms in biological macromolecules such as proteins, DNA and RNA. The Life at the Nanoscale Mini-Symposium showcases recent discoveries about the inner workings of these important biological macromolecules.

Organized by students in the University of Oregon’s Molecular Biology and Biophysics training grant program, the program features seven world-class scientists who employ cutting edge technology to dissect how biomolecules function as nanomachines. Some of the techniques they use in their research include:

  • X-ray crystallography or cryo-electron microscopy to construct detailed maps of the atomic positions in biomolecules, providing static blueprints for their function
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance to measure molecular motion, thereby recording the levers flipping and gears turning in these nanomachines
  • Molecular tagging techniques to watch biomolecules move and interact to coordinate their biochemical functions.

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