In the Zernike Institute Advent Calendar, we are presenting 24 short spotlights in December. In these specials, we highlight PhD students, postdocs, support staff and technicians of our research groups and team - providing a glimpse in their typical day at work. In Episode 7 meet Chris van Ewijk
, PhD student in the Molecular Biophysics group of Prof. Wouter Roos.
Being part of the Molecular Biophysics group of Wouter H. Roos, I study the properties and functions of biological (and bio-based) molecules with our fancy High-Speed Atomic Force Microscope (HS-AFM). With this instrument we use a very small needle to ‘feel’ where our molecules are at nanometer precision, every 100 milliseconds. This allows us to directly observe our molecules while they’re doing what they do best: interacting with other molecules, self-assembling into larger conformations or breaking apart due to external or internal factors.
In Biophysics, this technique has a vast number of applications, but during my PhD project I focus on the dynamics of fibrillar structures. Fibrils are one dimensional rod-like assemblies that frequently appear in biological systems. The variety in the subjects I study ranges from bio-inspired self-assembling systems with photoactive properties towards the fundamental understanding of the aggregation of the proteins that cause Huntington’s disease. If we properly understand the dynamics of these fibrils, we could more effectively produce bio-inspired materials or, in the specific case of Huntington’s, develop medicines which hinder the aggregation of neurotoxic fibrils.
On a day to day basis this means that I spend a lot of time with our precious instrument, trying to catch the small kinetic mysteries of my samples. As our HS-AFM lab is quite small you often work alone, but luckily I get to spend a decent amount of time in our shared office together with my colleagues on writing and analyzing the large datasets.
Contact: Chris van Ewijk
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