Henry Hess Ph.D.
The research of the Hess group focuses on the applications of molecular motors.Henry Hess is currently an assistant professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the University of Florida. He received a diploma in physics from the Technical University Berlin in 1996, and obtained his Dr rer. nat. (summa cum laude) in experimental physics from the Free University of Berlin in 1999 under the guidance of Ludger Woeste. His postdoctoral studies were conducted from 2000 to 2002 at the Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, where he also served as a research assistant professor (2002–2005). He received the Wolfgang Paul Award of the German Society for Mass Spectrometry (2000) and, together with his postdoctoral mentor Viola Vogel, the Philip Morris Forschungspreis (2005).
The research of the Hess group focuses on the applications of molecular motors. Biomolecular motors, such as the motor protein kinesin, convert chemical energy derived from the hydrolysis of individual ATP molecules into directed, stepwise motion. This enables them to act as fuel-efficient “tractor trailers” within cells, and to actively transport designated cargo, for example vesicles, RNA or viruses, to predetermined locations within cells. In biological systems, motor-driven active transport complements diffusion and pressure-driven fluid flow, providing close control over cargo movements within extremely restricted spaces. For engineers, observing active transport in biology inspires visions of nanofluidic systems for biosensing, of active materials capable of rearranging their components, and even of molecular conveyor belts and forklifts for manufacturing at the nanoscale.
The design of nanofluidic devices, which extend the lab-on-a-chip paradigm to systems with picoliter volumes and submicron channel diameters, presents an immediate opportunity for the application of biomolecular motors. Such dust-particle-sized devices (reminiscent of unicellular organisms) lend themselves to the application of the “smart dust” concept. Smart dust biosensors would be immersed in the liquid sample of interest, independently perform an analysis, and be read out collectively to generate a statistically significant signal. Biomolecular motors that would coat the inner surfaces of such devices and utilize dissolved ATP fuel as an energy source would drive the internal transport and remove the need for peripheral pumps and batteries.
In addition to fulfilling transport functions, biomolecular motors can exert localized forces on nanostructures leading to conformational changes or the rupture of intermolecular bonds. This means that molecular motors can push supramolecular assembly and disassembly processes away from chemical equilibrium and generate dynamic, non-equilibrium structures. These forces could also be exploited in nanorobotics, where the sequential examination or manipulation of molecules by scanning probe microscopes and optical tweezers could be complemented by microscopic arrays of motor-driven actuators.
The Hess group is working on realizing these concepts with support from the DARPA Defense Science Office, the DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences, the National Science Foundation through a CAREER award and in collaboration with researchers from the Sandia National Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine New York, the ETH Zurich (Switzerland), the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics Dresden (Germany), and Gifu University (Japan).
EducationHe received a diploma in physics from the Technical University Berlin in 1996, and obtained his Dr rer. nat. (summa cum laude) in experimental physics from the Free University of Berlin in 1999.
Career HighlightsCurrent projects: Please consult http://hess.mse.ufl.edu/ for up-to-date information.
MOEMS-MEMS2008: Part of SPIE Photonics West (http://spie.org/x13200.xml)
MRS Spring 2008 Symposium FF: Molecular Motors, Nanomachines, and Active Nanostructures
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