2018: Taekjip Ha

Revisiting and Repurposing the Double Helix

Dr. Taekjip Ha
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biophysics and Biomedical Engineering, Investigator
Johns Hopkins University, Howard Hughes Medical Center

DNA is an iconic molecule that forms a double helical structure, providing the basis for genetic inheritance, and its physical properties have been studied for decades. In this talk, I will present evidence that surprising physical properties of DNA such as flexibility and self-association may be important for biological functions. In addition, I will present a new application of DNA where mechanical modulations of cell behavior can be studied at the single molecule level using rupturable DNA tethers. We found that cells can change their behavior dramatically in response to just two molecules strongly tugging on them.


About the Speaker

Dr. Taekjip Ha is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biophysics and Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He uses sophisticated physical techniques to manipulate and visualize the movements of single molecules to understand basic biological processes involving DNA and other molecules. His research pushes the limits of single-molecule detection methods to study protein–nucleic acid and protein-protein complexes and the mechanical regulation of their functions. Dr. Ha received his undergraduate degree in Physics from Seoul National University in 1990 and Physics Ph.D. from University of California at Berkeley in 1996. After postdoctoral training at Stanford University, he was a Physics professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign until 2015.


About the Lecture Series

In 2011, The Barry Berman Memorial Lecture Series was created through a generous gift by one of his close collaborators and colleagues, Professor Cedric Yu, a faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Radiation Oncology. Professors Berman and Yu formally worked together under a NIH-funded project on radiation cancer therapy. The goal of the lecture series is to inspire young people to study medical physics, by inviting nationally and internationally prominent scientists to speak on the application of physics principles to medicine.