Albert Libchaber

The Rockefeller University

Primary Section: 13, Physics
Secondary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Membership Type: Member (elected 2007)

Research Interests

As an experimental physicist, I have studied the implications of nonlinear dynamics on the physical world, including the biological sciences. On the physical world, we studied the various routes to a chaotic state and some scaling properties of chaotic and turbulent states. I am now working on aspects of cell biology related to artificial life, the origin of life, and some physical aspects of cell biology. Recently, I have undertaken a whole new series of experiments, the results of which may hold clues to the origins of life. I am working to define the minimal conditions needed to produce an artificial cell. The ultimate aim is to produce an artificial cell that self-reproduces following a genetic program. Another important concept at the origin of life is the development of a genetic code that relates the 20 amino-acid world to the 4 nucleotide one. We are trying to show that a RNA molecule of a stem-loop structure, acting as a ribozyme, can load an amino-acid to its 3' end, without enzymes. Past research in my lab has elucidated the effects of temperature on DNA. We showed that the polymerase chain reaction (PCT) can be sustained in a thermal convective cell. Because this phenomenon could be used to sustain very high concentrations of DNA or proteins, it sheds light on how critical concentrations of DNA may have been reached amid early primordial soup.

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