pushing the limits: mass transport in biomolecular and chemical sensors
As a Beckman Young Investigator, I propose to launch a comprehensive theoretical and experimental effort into the influence of transport in biological and chemical sensing and detection systems. More specifically, I will lead an effort into the fundamental underpinnings and limits of two systems - agglutination assays and bead-based screening and capture - with the expectation that the knowledge and intuition thus gained will enable many related technologies, such as medical diagnostics, detection and sensing of pathogens or explosives, and biomolecular screening. We will develop and employ theoretical techniques ranging from simple scaling analysis to sophisticated asymptotic analysis, molecular simulations and detailed computations. This theoretical understanding will be developed iteratively and in tandem with complementary experiments, performed both in my lab as well as those of my colleagues and collaborators at UCSB and MIT, with an ultimate goal of.develoing a physically intuitive (but quantitatively accurate) description of the "phase space" for such systems as different parameters are varied. Support from the Beckman Foundation would enable the fundamental mechanisms that ultimately control mass transport in all such sensing systems to be elucidated, which in turn would enable these and other systems to be rationally designed and optimized. Broadly speaking, rather than attempting to understand what has been done in a given experiment, we seek to ask what can be done, and tailor the technology accordingly. We anticipate that such efforts will enable entirely new questions to be asked, or to be asked in an entirely new way. At the very least, this program will enable a far more informed analysis and thoughtful design of such experiments than has been attempted before. More optimistically, however, we fully expect that such fundamental and intuitive understanding will engender new avenues, approaches and capabilities.
Arnold O. Beckman exemplifies the meaning of the word humanitarian. Combined with his unwavering enthusiasm for life, his keen sense of humor and his strong moral and ethical principles, he is a national icon.