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Thrust 1 - Biomolecular Machines

Proteins are true cellular nanomachines that perform sophisticated biological functions by self-assembling into dynamic 3D structures that use thermal energy to change shape in response to specific stimuli. Amid their many functions, proteins make for excellent nanoscale instruments. ​

CCBM aims at leading way in the efforts to meet the double challenge of Modern Biology. The first of these challenges implies reaching the quantitative level of Physics and Chemistry by combining experiment, theory and computation into general descriptions of biological phenomena with real predictive power (Quantitative Biology, QB). The second one involves transforming such knowledge into strategies for building novel synthetic biological components (Synthetic Biology, SB). Thrust 1 exemplifies these goals using protein folding and function as arena. Our contention is that proteins are perfect targets for growing the QS-SB grassroots. Biomolecules are at the lowest echelon of biological complexity, which facilitates transferring knowledge and approaches from the physical science and engineering realms. Moreover, because proteins operate as the cellular nanomachines in charge of most biological functions, they provide an ideal playground for making real impact in Biology. These principles also hold true for training the future generations of biologically inclined researchers and engineers, who will train on a powerful research toolset that is both cutting edge and transdisciplinary.

Students enrolled in Thrust 1 will apply a multi-pronged approach that combines protein engineering, structural biology, advanced single-molecule imaging, biophysics, and high performance computing. Students will make extensive use of the tools available in the 3 CCBM training modules to learn how to:

  • design and make biological devices
  • characterize their properties in vitro and in vivo
  • utilize physicochemical theory, and perform/interpret molecular simulations


Thrust 1 Faculty
Victor Muñoz
CCBM Co-Director
Professor of Bioengineering
Thrust 1 Lead

Muñoz Lab Website
Mike Colvin
Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology


Shahar Sukenik
Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Sukenik Lab Website
Eva de Alba
Acting Associate Professor of Bioengineering

de Alba Lab Website
Ariel Escobar
Professor of Bioengineering

Andy LiWang
Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Biology
LiWang Lab Website


Aaron Hernday
Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology