Inaugural Symposium

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The Kavli Nanoscience Institute

Inaugural Symposium

October 25, 2005

7:30 A.M. - 5:20 P.M.

Beckman Institute Auditorium, California Institute of Technology


7:30-8:30 a.m.



David Baltimore, Caltech: Welcome
Michael Roukes, Caltech: PMA, EAS, & Director of KNI 
"Caltech's KNI: The Big Picture on Small Things"


Daniel Rugar, Manager, Nanoscale Sciences, IBM Almaden Research
"Scanning the Nanoscale: Past, Present, & Future"


Coffee in the courtyard


Ted Hänsch, Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics
"Towards a Quantum Laboratory on Chip"

11:15-12:00 p.m.

Steven BlockStanford University

"Progress in Biological Nanoscience, Measured One Molecule at a Time"

Recent advances in technology have led to a new field of scientific exploration, dubbed single-molecule biophysics. Prominent among the enabling technologies is the laser-based optical trap, also known as 'optical tweezers.' When combined with various in vitro assays, optical traps permit physiological measurements of individual biomolecules, which can now be studied literally one at a time. In conjunction with ultra-sensitive systems for measuring force and displacement, the nanomechanical properties of proteins and nucleic acids are today being explored with unprecedented precision, revealing rich behaviors that are obscured by traditional, ensemble measurements. This talk will focus on current work with RNA polymerase, the enzyme responsible for transcribing the genetic code contained in DNA. We succeeded in constructing optical trapping instrumentation that has broken the 'nanometer barrier,' and is able to resolve single-molecule displacements down to the Ångström level—all in an aqueous buffer and at ambient temperature. As a consequence, we can now measure, in real time, the motion of a single molecule of RNA polymerase as it steps from base to base along the DNA backbone.


Box Lunches and Student Posters in the courtyard

Poster Presenters:

Bayer, Travis "From Smart Molecules to Intelligent Cells"

Berglund, Andrew "Tracking-FCS: Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy of one particle in solution"

Chen, Ching-Tzu "Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and the Physics of High-Temperature Superconductivity"

DeIonno, Erica "Synthetic Control of Molecular Switches."

Deshpande, Vikram "Carbon Nanotubes as Ballistic Phonon Channels and Nano-Mechanical Memories"

Dionne, Jennifer "Plasmonic Waveguides: Towards Passive and Active Nanophotonics"

Franck, Christian "Characterization of Domain Walls in BaTiO_3 using Atomic Force (AFM) and Piezo Response Force Microscopy (PFM)"

Imoukhuede, Princess "Fluorescent mGAT1 Constructs for Correct Trafficking and Dimerization"

Li, Mo "Nano-electro-mechanical System Based Micro Gas Analyzer"

Marcus, Josh "Microfluidic Single Cell mRNA Isolation/cDNA Synthesis"

Marshall, Kimberly "Memory in Physisorbed Monolayer Formation: The Influence of a Structural Template"

Maune, Brett "An Optically Triggered Q-switched Photonic Crystal Laser"

Meyer, Michelle "Generating Protein Sequence Diversity Using Computation-Guided Recombination"

Nash, Cody "Novel genes involved in bacterial synthesis of nanocrystalline magnetite"

Schulman, Rebecca "Toward Self-Replication and Evolution of DNA Crystals"

Srinivasan, Kartik "Fiber-coupled, High-Q AlGaAs Microdisks with Embedded Quantum Dots"


Dave Rutledge, Caltech, Introduction


Jim Heath, Caltech, CCE
"NanoSystems Biology Cancer Center and the KNI"

A key motivation for forming the KNI was to provide research infrastructure that could continue to support the Caltech tradition of cross-disciplinary science. The recently funded NanoSystems Biology Cancer Center (NSBCC) represents one of the first large efforts that is poised to take advantage of the KNI resources. The NSBCC is a joint effort, centered at Caltech, but with strong ties to the UCLA Geffen Medical School, the UCLA Jonnson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, WA. I will briefly discuss the problems that will be addressed by this Center, including some of the key technologies that are being developed for applications to fundamental cancer research and clinical oncology.


Christina Smolke, Caltech, CCE
"Programmable Molecular Switches and Sensors: Devices for Converting Biochemical Information into Biological Function"

Cells employ a variety of different sensor biomolecules to dynamically evaluate their environments and trigger appropriate metabolic responses. The ability to program cells with engineered molecules that can sense structural and chemical events is a critical technology for many of the challenges that face us in biotechnology and medical research. Recent progress in the design of tailor-made molecular switches and sensors is rapidly advancing our ability to engineer 'smart' systems that will perform information processing or signal integration within cells or complex biological samples. The design of a new class of nucleic acid-based molecular sensors that transform different types of informational input into biological function and their application in regulating complex cellular behavior will be presented. Specifically, the design of intelligent nucleic acid sensors that act as targeted molecular therapies and in vivo imaging devices will be described. In addition, a digital nucleic acid sensor device that enables multiplex identification and quantification of proteins, small molecules, and other biomarkers for diseases or cellular states in a single, rapid, sensitive, and inexpensive platform will be described.


Pat Collier, Caltech, CCE
"Molecular Circuitry: Construction and Characterization of Coupled Biomolecular Dynamics"

We are interested in understanding and controlling assemblies of dynamically interacting biological molecules, in real time. Our goal is to develop an understanding of how collective effects at the molecular level ultimately result in diverse and coordinated behaviors displayed by signaling pathways and other biochemical reaction networks that are essential to cellular functioning, such as signal amplification. As a means toward achieving this goal, we are fabricating elementary molecular circuitry for the development and characterization of coupled enzyme dynamics driven into nonequilibrium steady states. We are also developing functionalized nanoelectrodes integrated on scanning probes for continuous interrogation and control of biochemical reaction dynamics with single molecule sensitivity.


Michael Elowitz, Caltech, BIO
"Slow, Noisy, and Out of Control: Gene Circuits at the Single Cell Level"


Coffee in the courtyard


Axel Scherer, Caltech, EAS & PMA
"Frontiers and Applications of Nanophotonics at the KNI"

A new generation of photonic devices has recently emerged that relies on the geometry of sub-wavelength microstructures within a high refractive index contrast materials system to confine and manipulate light within small volumes. Very high optical field densities can be obtained within such structures, and these in turn can amplify optical nonlinearities. Moreover, many of these structures, as for example photonic crystals and slotted waveguides, can be engineered for the efficient localization of light within the low-index regions of high index contrast microstructures. When such structures are back-filled nonlinear polymers or liquids, devices can be tuned and novel phenomena can be observed. In particular, such devices are very interesting when constructed from silicon on insulator (SOI) material in which the optical waveguide also serves as a transparent electrical contact. Here we show examples of the design, fabrication and testing of optical microstructures in which the electro-optic (x2) and photo-refractive (x3) nonlinearities are used for electro-optic tuning, frequency mixing, optical rectification, and high-speed switching of light.

The emergence of such lithographically defined optical devices also enables the integration of spectroscopic systems that can be miniaturized and integrated with electronic and fluidic systems for signal analysis and sample delivery. Now, we can integrate these devices into compact functional systems for spectroscopic analysis. In general, miniaturization results in the opportunity to reduce the sample volumes and improvement in the sensitivity and speed. Here, systems based on silicon on insulator technology, photonic crystal geometries, and the introduction of gain into spectroscopic systems will be presented. We have recently developed replication molding technologies which permit the integration of thousands of fluidic valves in spectroscopic microfluidic analysis systems. By integrating the fluidic and photonic devices, pico-Liter sample delivery can be combined with femto-Liter analytical volumes. Here we will describe this technology, developed in the Kavli Institute, and review some preliminary applications of our fluorescence immuno-assay devices for the analysis of human blood serum for several common cancer markers.


Oskar Painter, Caltech, EAS
"Geometry and Scale in Photonics"

The scaling of optoelectronic devices to smaller and smaller spatial dimensions results, at least theoretically, in an increased device density and reduced optical system size. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, there is also a corresponding increase in the strength of light-matter interactions with reduced size scale, an effect which can dramatically alter the power, speed, and efficiency of an optical device. Geometry below or at the wavelength scale also plays an intricate role in optics, as demonstrated recently in the work on engineered photonic crystals and so-called "left-handed" materials. In this talk I will discuss the application of geometry and scale in optical structures to several different areas of our own current research: chip-scale atom-cavity QED, plasmon-optics, and silicon microphotonics.


Erik Winfree, Caltech, EAS
"Algorithmic Self-Assembly of DNA"

Nucleic acids have proven to be remarkably versatile as an engineering material for chemical tasks including the storage of information, catalyzing reactions creating and breaking bonds, mechanical manipulation using molecular motors, and constructing supramolecular structures. This talk will focus particularly on molecular self-assembly, giving examples of engineered DNA "tiles" that crystallize into two-dimensional sheets, one-dimensional tubes, and information-guided patterns such as a Sierpinski triangle and a binary counter. Such "algorithmic" self-assembly may provide a bottom-up fabrication method for creating complex, well-defined supramolecular structures that can be used as scaffolds or templates for applications such as arranging molecular electronic components into active circuits.


Bill Goddard, Caltech, CCE & EAS
"Functional Nanoelectronics Devices from First (and Second) Principles"

Advances in methods for predicting properties of nanoelectronics systems from first principles are beginning to allow the materials and configurations for these systems to be designed and optimized computationally. This can be most valuable because the experimental methods of assembling and characterizing such systems often involve many difficulties.

We will highlight some recent advances in methodology and will illustrate them with recent applications to problems on molecular scale electronics. In particularly we will discuss:

  • The current flow between metal electrodes connected via single wall and double wall nanotubes as a function of voltage (conductance), extracting the contact resistance for various choices of metals and configurations and connectors.

  • How the conductance of a rotaxanes (molecular memory element) is controlled by the nature of the functional groups and outline how to develop a tricolor (RGB) single molecular pixel for electronic paper applications.

Funding: Intel Components Research, MARCO FENA (UCLA), NSF

Caltech Collaborators: Weiqiao Deng, Yuki Matsuda, Yong-Hong Kim, Seung Soon Jang, Yun Hee Jang, Si-Ping Han UCLA Collaborators: Fraser Stoddart, Amar Flood Intel collaborators:  Florian Gstrein, James Blackwell