"Protein Structure-Function and its Application to the Evolution of Biological Hydrogen Production"

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Date/Time:Monday, 25 Mar 2013 from 2:10 pm to 3:00 pm
Location:Physics 18/19
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Dr. Buz Barstow (Harvard Medical School)

Abstract: Protein molecules are highly intricate systems that can perform catalysis at room temperature and pressure with reaction rates and specificities that greatly exceed those of abiotic catalysts. Understanding how protein molecules perform this remains a fundamental challenge in basic science and poses a challenge to the application of proteins to problems in energy, health and materials. In this talk, I will present the first results that explicitly tie small, sub-angstrom structural perturbations to the structure of the Yellow Fluorescent Protein Citrine that were directly observed by high-pressure X-ray crystallography to large changes in the fluorescence spectrum of the molecule. This sensitivity presents both opportunities and challenges for the engineering of proteins molecules. I will present work on the application of structural biology to the design and evolution of proteins for the biological production of the renewable fuel hydrogen.

Bio: Buz Barstow is a biophysicist who is applying structural biology and synthetic biology to the problems of energy and sustainability. He graduated with a 1st class MSci in Physics from Imperial College, London where his undergraduate research concentrated on quantum optics and the application of plasma physics to table-top nuclear fusion. His graduate work at Cornell in Applied Physics on the direct correlation of protein structure and function using high-pressure X-ray crystallography under Sol Gruner was awarded the Findley Award and was a finalist for the Weber International Prize. He is currently an NIH National Research Service Award fellow and a recipient of a Burroughs-Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface in Pamela Silver’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School. His work focuses on the evolution of biological hydrogen production and the use of electroactive bacteria in the production of sustainable fuels.