June 5, 2015
Colloquium Speaker: Thom LaBean
Thom LaBean is an Associate Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at the North Carolina State University. Throughout his career, LaBean has studied the structure, evolution, and engineering of biopolymers (biomacromolecules and materials assembled from them). His current research projects involve the design, construction, and testing of self-assembling DNA nanostructures for applications in molecular materials, nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, molecular robotics, and nanomedicine. Potential applications include the further miniaturization of electronic circuits and devices, creation of stimulus responsive constructs for chemo- and bio-sensing, and molecular therapeutics with inherent computational function.
LaBean earned his BS in biochemistry from the Honors College at Michigan State University, and his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. He studied protein design as a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University, and recently ran his own group there as a research professor with appointments in the departments of Computer Science, Chemistry, and Biomedical Engineering. LaBean joined the Materials Science and Engineering Faculty of North Carolina State University in August 2011.
The ability to design and program complex molecular interactions between synthetic biomolecules (especially DNA and proteins) has led to a revolution in artificial nanomaterials capable of self-assembly. For example, DNA-based nanotech entails the design of artificial nucleotide sequences capable of self-assembling into desired geometric shapes and patterns with nanometer-scale precision. These synthetic DNA nanostructures have been shown to be useful for the organization of other materials including inorganic nanoparticles (metals and semiconductors), nucleic acid aptamers, and even carbon nanostructures. We are working with DNA self- and direct-assembly to develop a general purpose molecular assembly toolbox useful for a wide variety of applications, especially in nanoelectronics and medicine. One promising future direction is the bottom-up fabrication of electronics components and devices including molecular assembly of wires and metal nanoparticles toward the construction of single-electron transistors, multicomponent devices, and artificial neural networks.