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Van der Waals colloquium

Joan van der Waals colloquium

Friday 29 October 2021
Niels Bohrweg 2
2333 CA Leiden
De Sitterzaal

Fiber growth, ultra-low surface tensions and glass-like aging: Protein condensates as novel materials

We have recently discovered that there are biological proteins that phase separate out of solution to form protein-dense droplets. These so-called protein condensates have been identified in an extremely large range of important biological processes. Increasingly, we find that the exact material nature of the liquid-like condensates (such as their viscosities) is important for proper function in vivo. Interestingly, protein condensates exhibit a range of material properties and behaviors not exhibited by synthetic materials. These include growth into ordered fibers, ultra-low surface tensions, and aging similar to glasses. This diversity of properties and their exact manifestation are ultimately dictated by the amino acid sequence of the proteins that comprise them. Although approaches developed to describe synthetic materials work well to “first approximation”, they cannot describe the intricacies and diversity of material behaviors we observe. Developing such an understanding is a very exciting direction for soft condensed matter physics but is also important for our understanding of how biological systems can harness similar principles to achieve specificity. In this talk, I will present several unusual material properties and discuss our current approaches to understand these from the perspective of soft condensed matter physics.

The colloquium is at 16:15 in the Sitterzaal, followed by a borrel. If you would like to talk to the guest, please contact the host, Milan, Wolfgang, or Yvonne (Kerkhof@Physics.LeidenUniv.nl).


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