Thorne Group Research and Education

Department of Physics

Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics

Cornell UniversityIthaca, NY • 14853

ret6@cornell.edu • (607)255-6487

Research

Physics Problems in Protein Structure Determination

High-resolution structures of proteins and other biological macromolecules provide insight into molecular function and a basis for rational approaches to the design of new medicines. We are exploring several problems related to molecular structure determination by X-ray crystallography. These include protein crystal growth and disorder; drop pinning and dynamics on surfaces (relevant to new crystallization approaches); radiation damage mechanisms and mitigation; cryocrystallographic methods; and new approaches to protein structure determination that provide new and/or improved information about macromolecular structure and function. (more)

Physics of Cryopreservation

Cooling samples to low temperatures is important not only in protein structure determination, but also in the long-term preservation of cells and tissues. We are studying both fundamental and applied problems in cryopreservation including ice nucleation, growth and recrystallization and aqueous glass formation in biological systems and how these affect protein and cell structure and function. (more)

Charge Density Wave Conductors

Low-dimensional electronic materials that undergo transitions to charge or spin-density wave states are among the most remarkable conducting materials ever discovered. They exhibit extremely diverse phenomena having analogs in superconducting, magnetic, and pattern forming systems. Current projects include fabrication and characterization of CDW microstructures and characterizing the spatiotemporal dynamics and phase diagram of driven density waves. (more)

X-ray Imaging of Ancient Artifacts

In collaboration with CHESS staff scientists and Cornell Classics and Anthropology faculty, we have been developing synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence imaging as a tool for studying ancient artifacts, including ancient inscriptions on stone and pre-Columbian mesoamerican ceramics. (more)

Biomass Combustion

Most biomass energy research in the US has focused on converting biomass to ethanol for use as a transportation fuel. The energy content of the ethanol produced is usually only a small fraction of the available plant energy, and can be comparable to the external energy inputs required for the conversion. Direct combustion of the biomass to generate heat is much more efficient, but this typically involves either high emissions or high capital costs. We are collaborating with a local company and with faculty in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering on an approach that could yield low emissions, low cost biomass combustion systems. (more)