Featured Scientists

The workshop, Research Frontiers in Bioinspired Energy: Molecular-level Learning from Natural Systems, provided a forum for discussing how molecular-level research on natural systems can inform new approaches to energy. These nine scientists shared their perspectives on what living systems can teach us about harnessing, storing, and using energy.


Les Dutton: Nature’s Marvelous Machines

Les Dutton turns to proteins for engineering advice.

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Penelope Boston: Lessons from Life in a Cave

Penelope Boston digs deep for answers to life’s persistent questions.

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Rudolph Thauer: Deep Chemistry

Rudolf Thauer finds energy insights at the bottom of the Black Sea.

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Ken Nealson: Mysteries of a Metal-Munching Microbe

Ken Nealson unlocks the secret chemistry of a remarkable bug.

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Janos Lanyi: The Potential of Proton Pumps

Janos Lanyi explores what microbes have to teach us about energy storage. Like charging a battery, cells use special proteins in their membranes to store up potential energy for later use. These proteins accomplish their work by shuttling protons (positively-charged subatomic particles) from one side of a cellular membrane to the other. Such proteins are …

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Nadrian Seeman: DNA Origami

Nadrian Seeman builds nanoscale structures out of folded DNA Many researchers study DNA to learn about genes and their effects on health and disease. But what about DNA as a chemical structure? Nadrian Seeman, Ph.D., sees DNA—with its long double-helixes made up of various combinations of four essential molecules—as an important chemical structure with potential …

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Felisa Wolfe-Simon: Strategies for Life on Earth

Felisa Wolfe-Simon gets inspired by life’s inherent flexibility. Chemistry drives life. Through the process of metabolism, every cell on Earth is constantly manipulating atoms and molecules in order to harvest energy, grow, and thrive. Although known life forms use just a handful of basic strategies for harnessing energy from their world, life also has an …

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Marian Plotkin: Solar-Powered Bugs

Marian Plotkin explores solar panels on an extraordinary hornet. To improve solar energy technologies, many scientists have studied plants and microbes that harness the sun’s energy through photosynthesis. According to the research of Marian Plotkin, Ph.D., scientists can now also turn to the animal kingdom for solar inspiration. Plotkin and his colleagues have found an insect, …

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Steven Benner: Creating Synthetic Life

Steven Benner, Ph.D., is a leader in the field of synthetic biology, an area in which scientists use chemistry to reproduce the complex behavior of living organisms.

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