Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Chair/Advisor

Hugo Sanabria

Committee Member

Joshua Alper

Committee Member

Feng Ding

Committee Member

Jens Oberheide


Proteins, RNA, and DNA serve as the primary sub-cellular machinery that give rise to the necessary functions of life. The long-standing paradigm has been that the structures of biomolecules, or the arrangement of the subunits that make up a biomolecule, determine biological function. However, biomolecules are not static objects. Instead, they often undergo structural rearrangements that are crucial to enabling and regulating their functions. In my thesis I present several studies of the interplay between the structures, dynamics, and functions of biomolecules that combine experimental fluorescence spectroscopy and computational methods to probe these systems at the single-molecule level. In particular, PSD-95, an abundant protein found in human neuronal synapses, exhibits complex structural rearrangements amongst its five structural subunits. Our investigations into the organization of these subunits have unveiled a complex dynamic scheme in which structural rearrangements allow PSD-95 to self-regulate interactions of PSD-95 with itself and other proteins. Such interactions amongst the biomolecular machinery at the single-molecule scale are what underlie macroscopic biological processes like neuroplasticity and cell growth.

Author ORCID Identifier




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