Measuring the two-dimensional viscosity of lipid membranes
Raghuveer Parthasarathy, Physics
Our group explores the physical properties of biological materials, especially lipid membranes and bacterial communities. An REU project will likely focus on the former. Membranes are amazing materials — flexible, two-dimensional fluids. Membrane fluidity allows lipid and protein molecules to move and interact with one another, performing chemical reactions and constructing spatial relationships. Despite this, the viscosity of lipid membranes remains poorly characterized. Our lab has developed new techniques to measure membrane viscosity and is using these to quantify the fluid dynamics of membranes subject to a variety of physical, chemical, and biological perturbations. An REU student in our lab would work on performing these experiments, using microscopy and computational image analysis methods to characterize an important class of biomaterials. Other projects may involve using similar methods to explore the physical properties of bacterially-driven fluids, again combining imaging and image analysis to uncover biomaterial insights.