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Using Simulation to Understand Molecular Motors

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Friday, January 28, 2022, 1 pm– 2 pm

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Chemical Engineering Seminar

proudly presents

Dr. Alex Albaugh

University of California, Berkeley

Faculty Candidate Research


Molecular motors are at the heart of life. These diminutive engines drive muscle contraction, molecular transport, cellular motion, and other important life processes by transducing chemical energy stored in fuel into mechanical work. In this talk I will introduce a model for an “information ratchet”, a motor that rectifies thermal noise into directed motion. I will discuss how nonequilibrium molecular dynamics simulations of this model reveal tradeoffs between motor accuracy, velocity, and efficiency and demonstrate the motor’s response to a range of operating conditions. I will also present how these simulations reveal that the motor’s direction can be controlled with simple configuration changes. Leveraging recent breakthroughs with thermodynamic uncertainty relationships, I will also discuss the motor’s performance compared to theoretical limits. In the future I hope that similar computational approaches will be valuable design tools for creating better artificial molecular motors and revealing useful mutations for biological motors.


Alex Albaugh is a postdoctoral fellow in Todd Gingrich’s theoretical chemistry group at Northwestern University. He holds a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan. Alex’s research is currently focused on simulation methods and models for simple molecular motors. He spends some of his free time as a freelance quantitative researcher, building valuation models and market simulations for new financial derivatives. A native of Palmyra, PA, he currently lives in Chicago, IL with his wife, Ellyn, and dog, Pepper.

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