Biophysics Research at Ulm University
Biophysics is a very exciting and rapidly expanding research field exploring new areas between physics and biology. The complexity of life is investigated at every level and analysed with physical methods. Physics helps understanding the mechanisms underlying the most basics biological systems and interactions.
Here at Ulm University, there is a strong interest in Biophysics, and it is one of the focus areas of our Physics department together with the other Life Sciences departments. All these disciplines are brought together in an interdisciplinary Master programme offered to highly motivated national and international students.
The study plan can be tailored almost individually depending on the student interest and skills, and a wide range of specialisation subjects are available based on the ongoing research activities at our Life Sciences departments.
In the following a brief description for the main research areas in our study programme:
We are interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie the biological activity of proteins. We are studying enzymatic processes such as polymerization reactions, or DNA translocation, in well defined in-vitro assays by using single-molecule force spectroscopy and single-molecule fluorescence ... more
To perform cellular functions, thousands of inherently stochastic biomolecular interactions are precisely orchestrated and organized in space and time. We are interested in understanding these molecular interactions and the mechanisms that control them, to learn more about the physical principles of cellular biology and the bases of disease in case of malfunction. To do so, we use and develop techniques such as single molecule fluorescence microscopy or force spectroscopy to follow the operation of individual molecules inside the cell or in reconstituted systems. Thus we extract quantitative kinetic and structural information that enables us to build models of molecular interactions and cellular mechanisms ... more
Research at the Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is focussed on the question how tissues and organs are formed during embryogenesis and maintained during regeneration and aging. These processes are regulated by extracellular growth factors, intracellular signal transduction pathways and gene regulatory networks. We are focussing in our work on heart, kidney, bone, and the nervous system. To tackle these questions, we use different model organisms such as Mus musculus, Xenopus laevis, Danio rerio, Drosophila melanogaster or murine embryonic stem cells. We also use systems biology approaches to gain deeper insights into these processes ... more
Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology
The shape of a cell is determined by a genetic program and influenced by environmental factors. The genetic program provides the cell with the timely and exactly balanced production of proteins.
Proteins assemble into large complexes to produce and to use metabolic energy, mechanical forces and osmotic imbalance to give the cell its unique form. Using the bakers yeast Saccharomyces cerevisae as our model system we aim to increase our knowledge about proteins and their interactions to finally understand morphological processes at a molecular level. To this end we employ beside genetic approaches new methods to map protein interaction networks and to study and manipulate proteins in the living cell ... more
Biopolymers such as proteins and nucleic acids represent attractive macromolecules for the integration of complex chemical design due to their sequence specificity and geometric definition which allows accurate determination of structure activity relationships. As such, it is highly attractive to adopt these precisely defined macromolecules and via chemical programming, derive next generation nanomaterials that behave in a sequential and precise manner. The overarching goal of our research is to tailor hybrid macromolecules through synthetic customization that will serve as the vital link to synthetic and biological materials, thereby overcoming the limitations of the individual entities and consequently providing a unique strategy to tailor precision nanotherapeutics ...more
We are interested in studying the formation and properties of amyloid fibrils and related polypeptide aggregates. Amyloid fibrils can beformed from many natural and non-natural polypeptide chains. Their formation is thought to represent a fundamental chemical property of polypeptide chains as organic polymers. Inside the human body, amyloid states can occur associated with ageing and disease, such as in Alzheimer's disease ... more
Our lab focusses on the impact of the environment on cellular properties. In particular, we are interested in the interplay between cell function, cell mechanics and mechanics of the environment. To this end, we characterize and manipulate cell properties with a variety biophysical techniques. One goal is to develop artificial cellular microenvironments with finetuned mechanical and biochemical properties that optimize cell differentiation and cell growth ... more
Quantum Effects in Biology
Biologists do not take a quantum physics course during their studies because so far they were able to make sense of biological phenomena without using the counterintuitive laws of physics that govern the atomic scale. However, in recent years progress in experimental technology has revealed that quantum phenomena are relevant for fundamental biological processes such as photosynthesis, magneto-reception and olfaction. We have helped to initiate the development of this research field and are now working to discover how nature is harnessing quantum dynamics to optimize biological function ... more