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RAP opportunity at National Institute of Standards and Technology     NIST

Theoretical Nanoscale Biophysics


Physical Measurement Laboratory, Microsystems and Nanotechnology Division

opportunity location
50.68.02.B8072 Gaithersburg, MD 20899

NIST only participates in the February and August reviews.


name email phone
Michael Philip Zwolak 301.975.4258


It has long been a dream to design molecular devices and machines in Nature's image. From the complex machinery of the ribosome to the integration of information, sensing, and actuation in cells, biological systems conduct the most exquisite nanofabrication and molecular operation that we know of. DNA nanotechnology, in particular, makes information – the sequence of bases – into structures by taking advantage of the specificity of Watson-Crick pairing. Thermodynamic and kinetic factors, though, influence the microscopic trajectories and steer the ensemble to a collection of outcomes, influencing yield and functionality in the process. To do as biology does (whether chemical, e.g., ribosomal, or structural), we require better tools to measure, model, and understand the complex interplay of molecules and their environment that ultimately leads to functional nanostructures. We are developing the theoretical principles of biomolecular assembly, design, and measurement. To do so, we employ a range of complementary techniques, from pen-and-paper theory to Brownian dynamics to large-scale all-atom molecular dynamics and innovative computational algorithms to tackle behavior spanning multiple length and time scales. Our team is engaged in a number of related projects in biomolecular force measurement, nanopore analysis platforms, and spectroscopic techniques for biomolecular dynamics. As part of the Microsystems and Nanotechnology Division at NIST, we offer a highly-collaborative atmosphere where close contact with experimental groups affords the opportunity to put theory into practice.

Recent References

  • Revealing Thermodynamics of DNA Origami Folding via Affine Transformations and Quantitative Fluorescence Reporting, J. M. Majikes, P. N. Patrone, D. Schiffels, M. Zwolak, A. J. Kearsley, S. P. Forry, & J. A. Liddle, Nucleic Acids Research 48, 5268 (2020)
  • Topology, Landscapes, and Biomolecular Energy Transport, J. E. Elenewski, K. A. Velizhanin, & M. Zwolak, Nature Communications 10, 4662 (2019)
  • Optimal transport and colossal ionic mechano-conductance in graphene crown ethers, S. Sahu, J. E. Elenewski, C. Rohmann, & M. Zwolak, Science Advances 5, eaaw5478 (2019)
  • Colloquium: Ionic phenomena in porous 2D materials and their applications, S. Sahu & M. Zwolak, Reviews of Modern Physics 91, 021004 (2019)
  • A spin-1 representation for dual-funnel energy landscapes, J. E. Elenewski, K. A. Velizhanin, & M. Zwolak, The Journal of Chemical Physics 149, 035101 (2018)
  • The golden aspect ratio for ion transport, S. Sahu & M. Zwolak, Physical Review E 98, 012404 (2018)
  • Topological quantization of energy transport in micro- and nano-mechanical lattices, C.-C. Chien, K. A. Velizhanin, Y. Dubi, B. R. Ilic, & M. Zwolak, Physical Review B 97, 125425 (2018)
  • Metastable morphological states of catalytic nanoparticles, P. A. Lin, B. Natarajan, M. Zwolak, & R. Sharma, Nanoscale 10, 4528 (2018)
  • Maxwell-Hall access resistance in graphene nanopores, S. Sahu & M. Zwolak, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 20, 4646 (2018)
  • Ionic selectivity and filtration from fragmented dehydration in multilayer graphene nanopores, S. Sahu & M. Zwolak, Nanoscale 9, 11424 (2017)
  • Dehydration as a Universal Mechanism for Ion Selectivity in Graphene and Other Atomically Thin Pores., S. Sahu, M. Di Ventra, & M. Zwolak, Nano Letters 17, 4719 (2017)

Other References

  • Breaking the Entanglement Barrier: Tensor Network Simulation of Quantum Transport, M. M. Rams and M. Zwolak, Physical Review Letters 124, 137701 (2020)
  • Open-system tensor networks and Kramers' crossover for quantum transport, G. Wójtowicz, J. E. Elenewski, M. M. Rams, and M. Zwolak, Physical Review A 101, 050301(R) (2020)
  • Revealing the emergence of classicality using nitrogen-vacancy centers, T. K. Unden, D. Louzon, M. Zwolak, W. H. Zurek, & F. Jelezko, Physical Review Letters 123, 140402 (2019)
  • An energy-resolved atomic scanning probe, D. Gruss, C.-C. Chien, J. T. Barreiro, M. Di Ventra, M. Zwolak, New Journal of Physics 20, 115005 (2018)
  • Communication: Gibbs phenomenon and the emergence of the steady-state in quantum transport, M. Zwolak, The Journal of Chemical Physics 149, 241102 (2018)
key words
Self-assembly; DNA nanostructures; DNA origami; Protein folding; Conformational fluctuations; Structural transitions; Biomolecules; Nanostructures; Nanofluidics; Ion channels; Thermal transport; Electronic transport; Ion transport; Biophysics; Nanotechnology; Theory; High-performance computing;


Citizenship:  Open to U.S. citizens
Level:  Open to Postdoctoral applicants


Base Stipend Travel Allotment Supplementation
$82,764.00 $3,000.00
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