Samuel L. Foley
Physics of Asymmetrically Stressed Lipid Membranes
Physics Ph.D. CandidateTheoretical/Computational Soft Matter Biophysics
Advisor: Markus Deserno
Department of Physics
Carnegie Mellon University
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I am a graduate student in the biophysics theory group at Carnegie Mellon. In the Deserno group, we investigate the nano-mechanical properties of lipid membranes within the framework of continuum elasticity. We pair pencil-and-paper theory work with coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations which provide a ripe landscape for testing the limits of currently understood membrane phenomena. Toward this end, we also develop ultra-coarse-grained lipid models which allow us to access the longest length- and time-scales possible within the limitations of computing power, putting biologically relevant system sizes within reach.
A rapidly developing area of membrane biophysics is the study of bilayer asymmetry and its role in membrane structure and function. In the course of my thesis work, I have developed a modification to a widely-used coarse-grained lipid model rendering it capable of simulating bilayers with differing tensions in the two monolayers. We then put this model to work investigating how differential stress alters first-order phase transitions in lipid membranes, shedding light on the recently-discovered "stiffening transition" observed in membrane simulations. I am presently working on how membrane curvature and its associated stresses play into all of this. My anticipated graduation date is May 2023.
samfoley (at) cmu (dot) edu