ChBE Seminar Series: Sara L. Perry

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Room 2108, Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Building
Professor Ray Adomaitis

Microfluidic and Biomimetic Approaches to Study and Control Biomolecule Function
Sarah L. Perry
Institute for Molecular Engineering
University of Chicago

Living cells harness highly sophisticated intracellular organization strategies that are challenging to reproduce synthetically. Developing the ability to (i) correlate biomolecular structure with function at biologically relevant timescales, (ii) simulate the in vivo environment, and (iii) isolate biological networks for study in an artificial milieu without sacrificing the crowding, structure, and compartmentalization of a cellular environment have tremendous potential to impact both biological studies and bioengineering applications. To address the idea of dynamic structural analyses capable of directly capturing the molecular motions involved in biological processes, I will describe a microfluidic strategy for time-resolved macromolecular crystallography. Such microfluidic chips can circumvent the limitations of traditional methods by enabling the growth and subsequent serial analysis of a large number of crystals coupled with exquisite control over fluid flow and transport to enable precision triggering of enzymatic reactions. While these types of structural characterizations enable our understanding of how complex biomolecules function, this information is typically obtained in the absence of the actual context of the in vivo environment. Attempts to create reductionist intracellular microenvironments for biochemical studies ideally maintain both crowding and compartmentalization while allowing for modulation of subtle intermolecular interactions.  I will also describe how the dense, amino acid-rich complexes formed from polypeptides and other biomolecules can produce an effective biomimetic microenvironment. The liquid-liquid phase separation of such coacervate droplets enables sequestration of proteins and other materials from the external environment in a manner similar to cellular organelles. Taken together, the ability to study dynamic structure-function relationships and the capacity for creating controlled biomimetic microenvironments have the potential to enhance our understanding and facilitate the use of functional biomolecules in fields ranging from bioenergetics and biocatalysis to biomedicine.

About the Speaker
Sarah L. Perry received B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering (2002) and Chemistry (2003) from the University of Arizona, as well as a M.S. in Chemical Engineering (2005) working on gas phase methods for chemically passivating silicon surfaces for semiconductor manufacturing. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2010) working on microfluidic platforms for the crystallization and study of membrane protein crystallization with Professor Paul J.A. Kenis. She began working as a postdoc for Professor Matthew Tirrell in the Bioengineering Department at the University of California at Berkeley and moved with the lab to the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. Her initial research in the Tirrell Group focused on the use of self-assembling DNA-lipid films for use in transfection. Currently she is working to develop design rules to understand the structure and self-assembly of biomimetic complex coacervate systems for use as artificial organelles or nanoreactors.

Audience: Graduate  Undergraduate  Faculty  Post-Docs 

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