Welcome to the website for the Lillian Lab in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Texas Tech University. Our research interest is to use computational models to represent and understand the long length and time scale dynamics of DNA.
DNA is a very long flexible molecule. In fact, human DNA spans up to about 8 cm in length and only 2 nm in diameter. Because of this flexibility, a DNA molecule can twist and wrap around itself in response to cellular processes. During transcription, for example, RNA polymerase not only generates supercoils but responds to the level of supercoiling present; see figure below. In addition, experimental evidence suggests that RNA polymerase prefers to transcribe from within the end loop of a plectoneme. The bending, twisting, looping, and supercoiling of DNA plays a role in a variety of other processes including: replication, recombination, and gene regulation. Consequently, revealing the mechanics and dynamics of DNA is essential to understanding fundamental processes in the cell and has the potential to lead to novel drug therapies. Furthermore, the computational models used to reveal the mechanics of DNA could be leveraged to engineer nano-scale mechanical systems.
To address questions regarding the mechanics of DNA, we develop computational models for individual DNA molecules. These models represent long-length and -time scale dynamics using continuum and coarse grain approximations. Our models account for many physical phenomena, including elasticity, electrostatics, hydrodynamic interactions, and thermal fluctuations.
For more on our research, please see our Research Projects page.