The San Francisco-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has announced an $18 million grant to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena to establish a center for "physical biology" research.
Researchers at the Ultrafast Science and Technology Center (UST) will study new ways of understanding the dynamic behavior of biological systems by directly observing them in the four dimensions of space and time, a discipline pioneered by Caltech chemist and physicist Ahmed Zewail. The 1999 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry advanced the field of femtochemistry, making it possible, using lasers, to freeze-frame motions taking place in a millionth of a billionth of a second.
The aim of physical biology is to provide an understanding of how things go from structure to dynamic interactions to function. In order to do that, it is necessary to look at systems, such as proteins or cells, in all four dimensions as they go about their business.
"The vision of UST is a new integrated science of structure and dynamics with the aim of deciphering the fundamental physics, chemistry, and biology at Caltech," said Zewail, who will direct the center. "Our goal is to address the fundamentals at varying levels, from the atom to the cell."