Supercomputing Protein Physicists Benefit Biologists

12 February 2010

Research at the School of Physics at The University of Sydney is branching out into areas that were once thought to sit firmly in the biomedical arena. A recent Protein Workshop run by Assoc. Professor Serdar Kuyucak a biophysicist in the School of Physics is testament to this diversification.


"Even though I'm based here in the School of Physics I haven't published any work in a mainstream Physics journal in years. However my work on computational modeling of Proteins, is published in journals of chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics."

As part of this research supercomputers can help biophysicists such as Professor Kuyucak understand how proteins are created, knowledge that could lead to a better understanding of diseases and uncover possible cures.

Opening up a myriad of possibilities for simulating the structure and interaction of proteins that are incredibly complicated molecules made up of long chains of atoms; the traditionally physics-based skills of numerical modeling are in demand across many disciplines.

The recent Protein Workshop saw scientists from areas including membrane biophysics, molecular and microbiology and from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney learning about "Computational Modeling of Proteins, from ab-initio to coarse-grain methods".

International presenters, Turkish bio-informatics expert, Ugur Sezerman, and United States biophysicist, Denis Bucher, also shared their knowledge with the group.

"It was a showcase of our work," says Professor Kuyucak. "The final session on quantum mechanical methods was a bit heavy going for the non-physicists, but it is imperative to expose them to all aspects of our work and that does includes physics."

Professor Kuyucak said he was surprised by the demand, receiving fifty percent more enrolments than he'd hoped for. "It's something we have been talking about for years. It was definitely a success, which we are hoping to repeat next year. This time though we will go in depth on one topic."

"I think one of the most interesting things was the fact that I didn't just teach, I learnt what other groups are doing. Very interesting stuff!"