Assistant Professor of Physics Paul R. Selvin has been named a Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation. Fewer than twenty of these awards are made annually to exceptional young faculty to support research and encourage research-enhanced teaching in the nation's premier universities.
Professor Selvin has initiated several ground-breaking studies of considerable biological interest using photophysical methods. His substantial improvements in the prior art of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) have produced a 100- to 500-fold improvement in the signal-to-noise rate and have opened up qualitatively new vistas for applications of these techniques to biophysical problems that require measurement of distances over the range of 1.5 to 10 nm.
Since coming to Illinois in 1997, Professor Selvin has used his LRET expertise to obtain two striking and important experimental results clarifying the conformational changes that occur during the functioning of bio-active molecules. First, with several collaborators, he detected the conformational changes in actomyosin associated with the long-sought "power-stroke" of muscle mechanics (M. Xiao, H. Li, G.E. Snyder, R. Cooke, R.G. Yount, and P.R. Selvin, "Conformational changes between the active-site and regulatory light chain of myosin as determined by luminescence resonance energy transfer: The effect of nucleotides and actin," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95, 15309-15314 ). Second, working with another group of colleagues, Paul has achieved the first detection of atomic-scale conformational changes in a voltage-controlled ion channel (Albert Cha, Gregory E. Snyder, Paul R. Selvin, and Francisco Bezanilla, "Atomic scale movement of the voltage-sensing region in a potassium channel measured via spectroscopy," Nature 402, 809-813 ).
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