You are here
Understanding the mechanics of nanomaterials is important both fundamentally and practically because, by capitalizing on the science emerging from the newly accessible size range, engineers can develop electromechanical devices, machines, and electronics on the nano scale. Professor Traian Dumitrica (Mechanical Engineering, MSI Associate Fellow) and his research group and collaborators use advanced computational microscopic methods to obtain accurate nanomechanical responses and to understand the fascinating properties of nanostructures directly from the interatomic interactions and the quantum mechanics of the electrons. The figure above shows how nanotubes break in one of two ways: the bonds either snap in a brittle fashion or they stretch and deform. An article about this research appears in the Spring 2010 MSI Research Bulletin.
The field of Terramechanics deals with the mechanical behavior of the earth’s surface subjected to vehicle and machinery loads. In most cases the natural surface is soil, although vehicle movement over snow cover or ice also falls into this area. Professor Andrew Drescher (Civil Engineering, MSI Associate Fellow) and Ph.D. student Jim Hambleton use MSI to perform extensive simulations to investigate how wheel-induced soil deformation is influenced by material type, layering, wheel geometry, loading, and interface friction at the soil-wheel interface. The image above shows a graphical representation of a wheel rolling over soft soil. An article about this research will appear in the Spring 2010 issue of the MSI Research Bulletin.
The quest for potential new drugs and molecules that can serve as probes of biochemical processes is a major effort at the University of Minnesota. At the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development (ITDD), directed by internationally known medicinal chemist Professor Gunda I. Georg, researchers conduct highly interdisciplinary research in drug discovery and development and provide scientific services to research and business communities. The discovery and development of new therapeutics requires specialized software not normally found in an academic setting. Researchers at the ITDD employ MSI-hosted resources to (1) design and model new compounds to help medicinal chemists select compounds to prepare and test, (2) track information on the over 200,000 compounds currently in the GPHR compound screening collection, and (3) safely and securely record and manage the enormous amount of biological data that is generated during the drug discovery process.
Algorithms developed by Professor Vipin Kumar (Computer Science and Engineering, MSI Fellow) and his team can be used to detect changes in forest cover due to fires, logging, and other events. Deforestation is an area of concern to scientists studying climate change. Professor Kumar’s software is being used by the Planetary Skin Institute as part of their effort to integrate data from sensors monitoring the earth. The graph shows changes in vegetation over time detected by the algorithm using satellite imagery. A story about the Kumar group’s work appeared in the Fall 2008 MSI Research Bulletin. The University News Service story about this work can be found here.
Associate Professors Hiroshi Matsuo (MSI Associate Fellow) and Reuben Harris of the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics lead a team of researchers studying ways of fighting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Specifically, they are studying a protein called APOBEC3G, or A3G, which can alter the HIV genome by deaminating cytosines to uracils. (Cytosine is one of the bases in DNA; uracil is a base in RNA.) The group’s work was featured in the prestigious journal Nature in 2008, and Professor Harris was recently awarded a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to continue this important research. The graphic shown is an example of a computer-generated image of a model used by the team to graphically depict molecular structures, in this case a superimposition of ten NMR images (modified from Figure 2 in Chen et al., Nature, 452, 116-119 (2008)).