04/03/18 -9:45 AM to 11:00 AM
Dow Lecture Series: Professor Lauren J. Webb
Dow Lecture Series
"Electrostatic and Electrodynamic Fields in Lipid Bilayer Membranes"
Lipid bilayer membranes are complex, dynamic, and functional structures composed of a wide diversity of lipids, proteins, small molecules, and water organized in heterogeneous domains through noncovalent interactions. The structure and motion of these molecules generate large electric fields within the interior of the membrane that are critical to membrane structure and function. Here, we describe how vibrational spectroscopy of unnatural nitrile chromophores places throughout the membrane structure is used to measure electrostatic fields in peptides intercalated in free-standing lipid bilayer membranes of increasing chemical complexity. In combination with electrodynamics simulations, these experiments highlight how common small molecules such as cholesterol dramatically affect membrane structure and dynamics through large changes to membrane electric fields.
Researchers in Professor Webb’s group seek to understand and manipulate the mechanisms of interaction, organization, and self-assembly of biological macromolecules that lead to the complex and emergent properties of living systems. Researchers are interested in understanding the organization of biological systems is of vital biomedical importance, and exploiting the weak but long-range interactions involved in noncovalent organization of biological macromolecules at prepared surfaces and interfaces with the ultimate goal of integrating biological and inorganic materials in a controlled and robust manner. Employing a variety of physical and analytical techniques, researchers study the physical chemistry of electrostatic fields at protein-protein interfaces using vibrational spectroscopy coupled with computational methods; and they prepare and characterize chemically modified surfaces that interact specifically with folded, functional proteins using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, and surface spectroscopic techniques.
Professor Webb grew up in Salem, OR, and received her A.B. (artium baccalaureus) in chemistry (music minor) from Bowdoin College in 2000. She did her graduate work at the California Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Professor Nathan Lewis as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, earning her doctorate in chemistry in 2005. From 2005-2008, she was a National Institutes of Health Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Chemistry Department at Stanford University, working in the laboratory of Professor Steven Boxer. Webb joined the Department of Chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 2008. She is the recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface and is a Sloan Research Fellow.