Dr. Parag Katira Gives Invited Talk Biomolecular Motors at the Telluride Science Research Center


The beautiful town of Telluride, CO (image by Parag Katira)


Located in a glaciated valley surrounded by the rugged San Juan Mountain range, the Telluride Science Research Center, co-founded in 1984 by SDSU’s Peter Salamon, provides a relaxed environment for face-to-face discussions among scientists, engineers, theorists, and experimentalists from around the world performing cutting edge research in molecular science. The workshop on Information Engines at the Frontier of Nanoscale Thermodynamics was organized by James Crutchfield of UC Davis, along with Korana Burke, Sebastian Deffner and Tommy Bird, from June 23 to July 1 of 2016. As a past contributor to the Information Engines Multi University Research Initiative (MURI) project funded by the Army Research Office, Dr. Katira was invited to give a talk at this meeting. The topic of Dr. Katira’s talk was Information Processing in Biological Systems with special focus on nano-scale biological motors that drive most of the active processes in biology. Information thermodynamics focuses on the energetic costs accompanying any information manipulation or computing performed using physical systems. The fundamental idea is that if information is stored as the physical state of a system, then energetic cost of manipulating this information – either by erasure, or recording, or both is bound by the change in the entropy of the system. Biological information is stored in the specific arrangement of the building blocks of life, for example nucleic acids, in form of DNA and RNA, or amino acids, in the form of proteins. Biological information is also stored hierarchically, where the fundamental structures are further arranged with precision into larger structures, and so on. The questions then are how this information is processed within biological systems, what the energetic cost for copying and editing this information is, and where this energy comes from. Dr. Katira’s talk focused on the operation of a specific set of biological molecules – the molecular motors, which progressively move along biological structures consuming one molecule of a nucleotide triphosphate and releasing 10-19 Joules of energy per step. This energy is used to read the information stored in the biological structure being processed and either copy it or edit it. By studying the function of these biological molecular motors, Dr. Katira’s lab aims to mimic their functionality in synthetic systems with the aim of developing programmable active materials for applications in soft robotics and advanced biomedical systems.