University of Minnesota
University Relations
myU OneStop

Go to unit's home.

Home | Seminars and Symposia | Past seminars/symposia: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DTC Leading Edge Seminar Series

A quantum biological device — The light harvesting apparatus of purple photosynthetic bacteria


Klaus Schulten
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group
National Center for Biomolecular Modeling and Bioinformatics

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
3:30 p.m. reception
4:00 p.m. seminar

401/402 Walter Library

Klaus SchultenThe chromatophore vesicle of purple bacteria is a quantum biological device consisting of about 200 protein complexes that cooperate to harvest sunlight. It is a biological solar cell at its simplest. A combination of decades of experimental and theoretical efforts provided an electronic and atomic level description of the chromatophore and the light harvesting process that it carries out. The architecture and function of the constituent proteins complexes and their integration into the chromatophore is described with a focus on the initial steps of light-harvesting. These steps involve the capture of sunlight in the form of electronic excitation of a chlorophyll or a carotenoid molecule and the subsequent migration of the electronic excitation energy across the chromatophore until its energy is stored first as a transmembrane potential and then in the form of chemical energy. The lecture will illustrate how physics principles and biological organization go hand in hand to fuel life with the energy of sun light.


Klaus Schulten received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1974. He is Swanlund Professor of Physics and is also affiliated with the Department of Chemistry as well as with the Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology. Professor Schulten is a full-time faculty member in the Beckman Institute and directs the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group. His professional interests are theoretical physics and theoretical biology. His current research focuses on the structure and function of supramolecular systems in the living cell, and on the development of non-equilibrium statistical mechanical descriptions and efficient computing tools for structural biology. Honors and awards: Award in Computational Biology 2008; Humboldt Award of the German Humboldt Foundation (2004); University of Illinois Scholar (1996); Fellow of the American Physical Society (1993); Nernst Prize of the Physical Chemistry Society of Germany (1981).