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Physics Colloquium - Friday, November
Center; Refreshments at 3:30 P.M. in
Microfluidics and the study of non-equilibrium systems
Department of Physics
Emory University at Oxford
Small sample requirements, dimensions that resemble those of a cell, and automation capabilities are some of the properties that, when combined with their low cost, make microfluidic devices ideal for the study of biological systems and non-equilibrium systems in general. This talk will give two examples where microfluidic devices have been employed to investigate non-equilibrium systems. In the first study, we use a simple microfluidic design in order to observe the diffusion of a small number of submicron particles under a fluorescent microscope. In this case the interest lies in the small-numbers limit of Fick's law, a regime where fluctuations become important. A different, more advanced microfluidic device is combined with Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) for the study of the self-assembly of the ribosome, the organelle inside the cell that is responsible for protein synthesis. In particular, we determine the thermodynamics and kinetics of RNA folding and RNA-protein binding for a fragment of the bacterial 30S ribosomal subunit by observing reactions in real-time.