Martin Gruebele

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Election Year: 2013
Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Secondary Section: 13, Physics
Membership Type: Member


Martin Gruebele is James R. Eiszner Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois, as well as Professor of Physics, and Professor of Biophysics and Computational Biology. He is a physical chemist by training. His research combines experiments, computation and theory to study dynamics of complex systems, ranging from energy flow in organic molecules, to protein and RNA dynamics in vitro and in cells, dynamics of surface glasses, single molecule spectroscopy, and dynamics of locomotion in bacteria and vertebrates. Born in 1964 in Stuttgart, Germany, Gruebele obtained his B.S. and Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. His postdoctoral work was in the area of femtochemistry with Ahmed Zewail at Caltech. Since 1992, he is on the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1992.  He became a US citizen in 2004.  He has acted as Chair of the Physical Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society, edited for the Journal of Physical Chemistry, and is currently Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Research Interests

Using a combination of instrument design, wetlab experiments, computation and analytical theory, the Gruebele group studies the dynamics of complex systems. Dynamics at glass surfaces is investigated using scanning microscopy time-lapse movies. Single molecule optical absorption and energy transfer in nanostructures is studied by laser-assisted scanning microscopy. Video imaging, combined with 'parameter free' analysis is used to study the locomotion of organisms from bacteria to zebrafish. Protein and RNA dynamics are studied both in vitro and under the crowded conditions inside cells, using techniques such as laser T-jump, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, fluorescence microscopy, pressure jumps, X-ray crystallography, full atom molecular dynamics simulations, and simple diffusion or analytical models.  The in vitro work detected downhill or near-downhill folding proteins, whose fast folding facilitates observation of full refolding in atomistic simulations.  The in-cell work highlights how organisms can modulate their protein phenotype and exert additional control over proteins post-translation. In addition, the Gruebele group has studied in detail analytical and numerical models of energy flow within molecules, and complemented this work with laser spectroscopy to understand how slow energy flow can allow the control of molecular reactivity.

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