Professor of Chemistry
Department of Chemistry
(510) 666-3602

Research Expertise and Interest

chemistry, physical chemistry of cell membranes, molecular organization in cell membranes, receptor-ligand binding, spatial rearrangement of receptors, ligands


Cells interact with each other and their environment through myriad membrane associated receptors and signaling molecules. In addition to individual receptor-ligand binding, spatial rearrangement of receptors into complex patterns is rapidly emerging as a broadly significant aspect of cell recognition. We are mounting a quantitative investigation of the physical characteristics and principles governing molecular reorganization events during initial stages of cellular recognition and signaling. The basic problem to be addressed is the collective interaction between populations of receptors and ligands in two apposed fluid membranes. We wish to understand how the binding kinetics, lateral mobility of the membrane proteins, membrane bending effects, etc. influence molecular organization and recognition. Our approach is aimed toward elucidating how these physico-chemical parameters determine the formation of spatio-temporal patterns at cell signaling junctions. A three-pronged investigative platform which combines novel membrane experiments in reconstituted lipid membranes and cell biology with theoretical calculations and computer simulations has been formulated to meet our goals. In the experimental aspect of this project, we are utilizing a variety of supported membrane configurations to examine spontaneous pattern formation in a controlled setting. The use of supported membrane systems is an especially powerful aspect of these studies in that micron and nanometer-scale structures can be fabricated onto the substrate and used to confine and control the fluid membrane in practically any desired geometry. In addition to our studies of processes in cellular membranes, we are developing a variety of hybrid bio-solidstate devices which incorporate fluid membranes. The basic goal is to construct chip-based components which can manipulate, control, and measure membranes and associated molecules. We employ a range of microfabrication techniques including photo- and electron-beam lithography to fabricate micron- and nanometer-scale structures which interface with fluid membranes.

In Research News

July 3, 2014

Berkeley Lab researchers help find that what was believed to be noise is an important signaling factor. A breakthrough discovery into how living cells process and respond to chemical information could help advance the development of treatments for a large number of cancers and other cellular disorders that have been resistant to therapy.

April 21, 2014

Using nanodot technology, Berkeley Lab researchers have demonstrated the first size-based form of chromatography that can be used to study the membranes of living cells.

July 1, 2013

Evidence is mounting that the development and spread of cancer, long attributed to gene expression and chemical signaling gone awry, involves a biomechanical component as well.

February 11, 2013

Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have provided important new details into the activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a cell surface protein that has been strongly linked to a large number of cancers and is a major target of cancer therapies.

March 23, 2012

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a technique for lacing artificial membranes with billions of gold nanoantennas that can boost optical signals from a protein tens of thousands of times without the protein ever being touched.

Update Faculty Profile