DNA Topology and Mechanics of Fundamental Processes

Distinguished Lectures in Life Science

Michelle Wang, Cornell University

January 9, 2024 @ 12:00 pm to 01:00 pm

001 Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Building
University Park

Because of the helical structure of DNA, motor proteins that translocate along DNA must also rotate around DNA. The resulting DNA supercoiling, in turn, regulates the activities of the motor proteins. Despite the importance of torsion on DNA, quantitative studies of torsion have been technically challenging. I will discuss our effort to develop single-molecule tools tailored for torsional mechanical studies. These approaches allow us to provide unique insights into how torsion is generated and relaxed during fundamental biological processes.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Michelle Wang is the James Gilbert White Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at Cornell University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Dr. Wang is recognized for pioneering optical trapping techniques to study DNA mechanics and topology in fundamental processes. She received her B.S. in Physics with a concentration in Nuclear Physics from Nanjing University and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In her postdoctoral work at Princeton University, she measured the stall force of RNA polymerase - developing new methods essential for real-time tracking of a translocating motor location on DNA and expanding the definition of molecular motors. At Cornell University, her lab develops state-of-the-art (and often one-of-a-kind) instruments to directly and precisely measure molecular extensions, forces, rotations, and torques to investigate the roles of topology and mechanics in the complex coordination of cellular machinery. In addition, she served as the Director of the Molecular Biophysics Training Grant for more than a decade, training the next generation of biophysicists in integrative and collaborative biophysics research. Dr. Wang is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and an elected Fellow of both the Biophysical Society and the American Physical Society.


Lucy Bai