Computational Biophysical Chemistry Group

Exploring Nature With Computer Simulations

Physics Christmas Lecture 2015


Exploring the Molecular Machines within: a Fantastic Voyage

DrDanilo Roccatano

Lincoln School of Mathematics and Physics

Wednesday 16th December 2015

at 3.30 pm

EMMTEC Lecture Theatre, Brayford Pool Campus, University of Lincoln


To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Roccatano 2015















Nature is a great source of inspiration and emulation for scientist and engineering, and the continuous advance in the knowledge of the complex machinery of life is producing profound impacts in the modern societies. Life, in the form that we know, definitively exploited what we now call “nanotechnology” to emerge. Living cells are crowded of fascinating molecular machines with a large variety of functions not yet completely explored. Nature as a blind and patient engineer builds these machines without a blueprint but using the evolution. However, in the last 50 years, thanks to the continuous accumulation of knowledge, we have also learnt how to produce new nanosized engineering marvels.

The story plot of the 1966 SF movie A fantastic voyage, popularized with the novel written by the polymath science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, is based on the exploration of the human body with a cell sized submarine. In this talk, we will take a next step in this fantastic voyage to explore the nuts and bolts of our cell. We will use as submarine powerful computers and our imagination. In this voyage, we will discover that machines similar to those used in our day-life experience are within us and their functions is nowadays studied using the same basic physical laws discovered 350 years ago by the universal genius Isaac Newton. Therefore, the same principles that describe the motion of stars in our galaxy is helping us to unravel the complex machinery of life.

Author: Danilo Roccatano

Danilo Roccatano received his PhD in chemistry in 1997 at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy. From 1996, he worked as a postdoc in the group of Prof. H.J.C. Berendsen at the Chemistry department of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. In 2001, he moved back in his home country with a research associate fellowships, first at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” and later at the University of L’Aquila. In 2003, he started a position of senior research associate position in Germany at the International University Bremen. In July 2005, he was promoted to Lecturer, and, later in 2009, he got the assistant professor position in Biochemical Engineering at the same university (then renamed as Jacobs University Bremen). Since then, he is leading a computational chemistry and biochemistry group, which attracted funding and students from different Germany national research agencies (DFG, BMBF, DAAD), EU, and biotech companies (EVONIK, BASF, BRAIN). In October 2015, he started a Senior Lecturer position in the School of Mathematics and Physics of the University of Lincoln.

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