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New Programs Utilizing Light Scattering and Flow Imaging Techniques for Macromolecular Crystal Growth and Fluid Dynamics StudiesDr. Phil Segre, a physicist by training, is a recent addition to the Biotech group, SD46, having joined NASA in August of 2000. Over the past two years he has been developing a laboratory for the study of macromolecular and protein crystal growth. The main apparatus for this work is a Dynamic Light Scattering apparatus, DLS, which is capable of making highly precise measurements of size distributions of both protein solutions and protein crystals. With Drs. Chernov and Thomas (USRA), he has begun a collaboration studying the affects of protein impurities on protein crystal growth and subsequent crystal quality. One of the hypotheses behind the differences between Earth and space grown protein crystals is that the absorption of harmful impurities is reduced in space due to the absence of convective flows. Using DLS measurements we are examining crystal growth with varying amounts of impurities and testing whether there is a strong physical basis behind this hypothesis. With Dr. Joe Ng of UAH he has been collaborating on a project to examine the folding/unfolding dynamics of large RNA complexes. A detailed understanding of this process is necessary for the handling of RNA in biotech applications, and the DLS instrument gives details and results beyond that of other instruments. With Prof. Jim McClymer of the University of Maine (summer faculty visitor to NASA in 2001, 2002), we have been studying the crystallization process in model colloidal suspensions whose behavior in some cases can mimic that of much smaller protein solutions. An understanding of the self-assembly of colloids is the first step in the process of engineering novel materials for photonic and light switching applications. Finally, he has begun an investigation into the physics of particle sedimentation. In addition to the DLS instrument he also has an instrument (called PIV) that can measure flow fields of fluids. The applications are to the dynamics of protein crystal motions both on earth and in low-gravity.
Document ID
Document Type
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
December 1, 2003
Publication Information
Publication: Biological and Physical Space Research Laboratory 2002 Science Review
Subject Category
Solid-State Physics
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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