Quantum sensors are expected to enable new capabilities in many fields by offering enhanced performance, smaller size, weight and power, and novel modalities for sensing. I will provide a brief overview of the main areas where quantum sensing is expected to have a significant impact and describe some of the work currently under development at PSU.

Neela Yennawar | Huck Institutes of the life Sciences

The need for accurate biophysical description of macromolecules, multimerization, flexibility, dynamics and binding in their solution state has gained importance in various fields, including biology, chemistry, biophysics, biochemistry, structural biology, drug discovery, and antibody drugs. Multiple complimentary analyses need to be performed for success with high resolution structural methods such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM. Recent unique capabilities at the Huck X-ray crystallography and biological calorimetry facilities focus on a combination of tools for studying solution state structures: size-exclusion chromatography (SEC), multi-angle light scattering (MALS), dynamic light scattering (DLS), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC), isothermal calorimetry (ITC), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and circular dichroism spectroscopy (CD). 

Rachel Brennan | Environmental Engineering

Environmental urgency, growing political support, and public resolve are driving the demand for strategies to reverse global warming. The forthcoming Center for Climate Solutions and Sustainability Assessment provides a portfolio of engineering guidance, assessment, and professional education services to enable industry, community, and government clients to reduce their carbon footprint, improve their financial stability, and increase their workforce capacity to help solve complex sustainability challenges today. 

Stephen Chmely | Agricultural & Biological Engineering

Plants developed a remarkable hierarchical woody structure some 400 million years ago that allows them to grow towards the sun, conduct moisture and nutrients, and resist attack from harmful organisms. My group takes inspiration from these structures to create new materials by 3D printing from plant-derived polymers. I will discuss our efforts to create and characterize new materials from renewable resources and I will speculate on how these new materials could be deployed to reverse anthropogenic climate change.

The Nucleocapsid (N) protein of SARS-CoV-2 is the key analyte in rapid antigen tests. Our team recently determined the first 3D structure of the N protein (48 kDa) using cryo-EM. Molecular modeling suggests high similarity in conserved regions of the N protein across all variants of concern — ensuring the effectiveness of lateral-flow tests. Overall, these structural tools can guide the design of new immune therapies as we plan for future variants and pandemics. 

AFM applications in the life sciences have increased exponentially in recent years and include the ability to perform live-cell mechanical property mapping, high resolution molecular and cellular imaging, and fast scanning of dynamic biological processes. The MCL has two “Bio” optimized AFM instruments and we will highlight two recent projects (Anthropology & Chemical Engineering) that leveraged the ability to perform both fluorescence microscopy and nanoscale imaging.