Dongping Zhong

Mentor Faculty
Department of Physics
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry


Research Description:

Research in the Zhong group is directed towards understanding the nature of elementary processes in biological systems. We relate dynamics and structures to functions at the most fundamental level with state-of-the-art femtosecond lasers and molecular biology techniques. The laboratory ultimately will have the capability of time resolution from femtosecond to millisecond (second); biological systems can be prepared and studied at the single molecule level. We are currently focusing on studies of molecular recognition and ultrafast protein dynamics of several important biological systems.

(1) Biomolecular recognition

Biological molecular recognition is governed by physical forces and the understanding of electrostatic interactions at the atomic scale is fundamental to protein (and DNA) science. Here, we are particularly interested in protein-DNA/ligand binding processes to study local hydration, complex rigidity and conformation dynamics. These studies are very important to drug transport and design, protein folding and unfolding, and enzyme catalysis. We currently study protein hydration in complex systems as well as protein conformation dynamics using electron transfer and energy transfer as a molecular ruler.

(2) Biomolecular transformation
We focus on protein dynamics and enzymatic reactions. A variety of ultrafast elementary reactions involved in protein functioning such as twist motion, proton, electron and energy transfer, and bond breaking and making will be studied. Site-direct mutagenesis will be used to alter structurally and chemically important residue(s) to study the local reactivity. These studies will elucidate the role of dynamics in structure-dynamics-function correlation and the nature of non-equilibrium biological dynamics by coherent femtosecond laser preparation. Photoenzymes and photoreceptors are our current focus of interests.

  • Ph.D., Chemical Physics, California Institute of Technology, 1999

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