Van Vleck Public Lecture: Paul Chaikin, New York University

Towards Artificial Life with DNA Nanotechnology

About the Talk: Artificial Life, Self-replication, Exponential growth, Directed evolution, Nano-Architecture, DNA Activated NanoMachines. Self-replication and evolution under selective pressure are inherent phenomena in life, but few artificial systems exhibit these phenomena. We have designed a process and a system of DNA origami tiles that exponentially replicate a seed pattern, doubling (or more) the copies in each diurnal-like cycle of temperature and UV illumination, producing more than 7 million copies in 24 cycles.  We demonstrate environmental selection in growing populations by incorporating pH sensitive binding in two sub-populations. We also use DNA origami to self-assemble complex arrangements of microspheres and emulsion droplets with highly specific geometry showing control over valence, position, dihedral angles, chirality and to make DNA micro-machines.

About the Speaker: 
Paul Chaikin is originally from New York City. He earned his Bachelors at Caltech in 1966, and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971 working with Kondo superconductors. He joined the physics faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1972 where he studied thermopower, density waves, and high field phenomena mostly in organic superconductors. The lure of actually seeing the microscopics of a system led him to soft matter. He helped develop techniques to measure elasticity and motion and understand colloidal interactions. Hard and soft matter interests continued after joining the faculty at UPenn (1983), the staff at Exxon Research (1983) and the faculty at Princeton University (1988).

His interests in geometry/topology led to his founding contributions to diblock copolymer nanolithography, and studies of defects, annealing, and pattern formation. He helped demonstrate and explain why ellipsoids pack more densely than spheres. In 2005 he helped found the Center for Soft Matter Research at New York University. His more recent research centers on artificial self-replication, self-assembly, active matter, DNA nanotechnology, topological defects on curved surfaces, and quantifying order far from equilibrium.

Professor Chaikin is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Science and a Oliver Buckley Prize recipient (2018). He is currently a Silver professor of physics at New York University.


Start date
Wednesday, April 3, 2024, 7 p.m.
End date
Wednesday, April 3, 2024, 8 p.m.

Room 100, 10 Church Street Building