My current research goal working with Professor Fygenson in the physics department is to study the structural properties of DNA nanostructures. Our ultimate goal is to gain fundamental knowledge about different types of DNA building blocks such as tubes, ribbons, and bundles of various sizes. Our focus right now is to take measurements of the persistence length of the DNA nanostructures diffusing freely in 2D space to give us an idea of how stiff they are. When using these nanostructures as building blocks, being able to accurately predict their stiffness is crucial to effectively combine them into more complex structures.
Something that has routinely surprised me as a newcomer to the world of research, are the mathematical proofs and derivations that lead to workable models for physical phenomenon. For example, I never imagined it would be possible to take measurements of a mechanical property, such as persistence length, of such small structures using only a florescence microscope. After studying the mathematics behind such models, I am always baffled at how clever and insightful the creators must be to make their assumptions. I really look forward to studying more such models as I continue working in cutting edge research groups. Maybe one day I will start creating mathematical models myself!