IMI Interdisciplinary Mathematics InstituteCollege of Arts and Sciences

Mathematical Models of Protein Folding

  • Nov. 16, 1999
  • 3:30 p.m.
  • LeConte 412


Proteins are large (~10,000 atoms!) organic molecules which carry out the main activities inside all living cells. They perform specific chemical transformations and are subject to precise control. Like machines they have internal moving parts; but even more remarkably they automatically assemble themselves from defined sequence linear polymers (i.e. fold) under appropriate conditions. Molecular dynamics can be used to model and simulate the motions of proteins, including the folding process. But because of the large number of particles (especially since the solvent molecules must be included) statistical mechanical models are usually employed. In this introductory talk we will motivate the protein folding problem and discuss in an elementary way some statistical mechanical models for protein "statics'' and dynamics. Several mathematical problems will be posed. No prior knowledge of statistical mechanics will be assumed.

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