Newsletter, August 2015

    MIT Materials News that Matters
    August 2015
    Materials Processing Center at MIT
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    Quantum Materials
    Materials Day Symposium and Poster Session 
    October 14, 2015 
    Little Kresge Auditorium
    Hosted annually by the MIT Materials Processing Center, MIT Materials Day features emerging research and applications in materials engineering and science for products and processes across the industrial spectrum. The theme for this year's symposium is "Quantum Materials." This year's speakers will include leading researchers from the Science & Technology Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, an NSF-sponsored research center based at Harvard University with co-investigators at MIT, Howard University and the Museum of Science. Quantum materials include atomic layers, such as graphene, topological insulators, and nitrogen vacancy diamond. Topics will cover the synthesis of these novel materials, their characterization, and their use in quantum devices. Materials Day activities include conference speakers from within and outside the Institute and a student poster session showcasing results from the diverse materials research communities in MIT's Schools of Science and Engineering.

    The following day October 15, the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials (CIQM) will be holding their annual meeting and poster session at the MIT student center, La Sala de Puerto Rico. More information and a complete agenda for the CIQM Meeting can be found on the CIQM website here. You can register for both Materials Day and the CIQM annual meeting using the same registration form.
    Faculty Highlight: Ibrahim Cissé
    MIT Physics Assistant Professor Ibrahim Cissé probes formation of enzyme clusters that enable gene copying and protein production within living cells.
    MIT Assistant Professor of Physics Ibrahim Cissé studies single molecule behavior of enzyme clusters that enable gene copying and protein production within living cells.  Photo, Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center
    MIT Assistant Professor of Physics Ibrahim Cissé.  
    Cells for our skin, hair or nails share DNA that is the same or nearly identical, yet slight differences in which genes are expressed from that DNA give each cell its unique characteristics. MIT Assistant Professor of Physics Ibrahim Cissé is studying how a specialized enzyme called RNA polymerase II controls this gene expression. 
    "All the DNA presumably are the same or almost identical. It is just the set of active genes, the set of messages, that make up a particular cell's identity," Cissé explains.
    In normal cells, specialized enzymes called polymerase do the work of transcription, that is, copying a gene from the DNA, and producing a messenger RNA molecule that is primed to make a protein according to the formula encoded in the gene. 
    His recent research suggests that short-lived clusters of RNA polymerase II that target a specific gene control how messenger RNA molecules get made, Cissé says.   Read more.
    Extending Super-Resolution Imaging Techniques
    MIT graduate student Takuma Inoue tackles labeling RNA without genetic modification for doctoral studies.
    MIT Physics graduate student Takuma Inoue helped to build the super-resolution microscopy set up to study single molecule behavior of enzyme clusters that enable gene copying and protein production within living cells. Photo, Denis Paiste, MPC
    MIT Physics graduate student Takuma Inoue. 
    Overcoming limitations of super-resolution microscopy to optimize imaging of RNA in living cells is a key motivation for physics graduate student Takuma Inoue, who works in the lab of MIT Assistant Professor of Physics Ibrahim Cissé.
    Inoue, 26, was the first student to join Cissé's lab at MIT in January 2014, and he built the lab's super-resolution microscopy set up to study enzyme clusters that enable gene copying and protein production within living cells. Inoue, who this September enters his fourth year toward his PhD, originally started his experimental work in an atomic physics lab, where he worked on an imaging set up to trap extremely cold atoms in a vacuum. He is studying biophysics, atomic physics and condensed matter physics.

    After learning that Cissé needed someone to set up his super-resolution microscopy, Inoue switched to Cissé's lab.  Read more.
    Automating Single Molecule Image Studies
    MIT physics graduate student James Owen Andrews is developing software to improve dynamic image capture from super-resolution fluorescent microscopes.
    MIT Physics graduate student James Owen Andrews works at a bench in the Cissé  lab. Andrews is studying genetic transcription processes with single molecule resolution. Photo, Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center
    MIT Physics graduate student James Owen Andrews.
    Techniques such as modifying genes with fluorescent proteins have enabled microscopic images with single-molecule resolution, but MIT researchers are extending techniques designed for acquiring static images to capturing dynamic images with very high resolution in living cells.

    "The old mind set of super-resolution imaging is 'I want to make these images that are static pictures of what the cell looks like at some point in time and I want these images to be as sharp as possible', but for us that's not the most interesting question. For us, we want to start focusing on dynamics, and so, what all needs to change about the techniques in order to do this ... that's a lot of what I've been thinking about; that and how to analyze the data," explains physics graduate student James Owen Andrews, who works in the Cissé Laboratory. "It's really exciting working in this field," Andrews says.

    With its emphasis on understanding how RNA polymerase II, an enzyme that reads and copies DNA to create protein-synthesizing RNA molecules, Cissé Lab uses super-resolution fluorescent microscopes to record polymerase activity in the nucleus of living cells. Recent results point to short-lived clusters of polymerase as the controlling agent in the process. Andrews is developing software to automate the detection and identification of transient clusters in super-resolution data.  Read more.
    Fire and Ice Discoveries 
    From igniting carbon fibers to freeze-drying hydrogels, MPC-CMSE Summer Scholars learn pioneering scientific techniques at MIT labs during nine-week internships.
    2015 MPC-CMSE Summer Scholars. Photo, Denis Paiste, MPC
    2015 MPC-CMSE Summer Scholars are front row, seated from left, Katharine Greco, Lena Barrett, Olivia Fiebig, Zhenni Lin, and Mariely Caraballo Santa; and back row, standing from left, Christina Howe, Mohamed Ouarrak, Stephen Gibbs, Jahzeel Rosado Vega, Alexander Constable, Bart Machielse, Jonah Sengupta, Nathan Zhao, Lisa Savagian, Marc Napoleon, Gemma Topaz, Soo Son, and Latha Uthayakumar.
    Stephen Gibbs literally got to play with fire during his summer internship. Working on a thermopower wave project with graduate student Tianxiang "Albert" Liu, Gibbs added fuel to short strands of carbon fibers and ignited them from one end. They conducted dozens of similar experiments, measuring magnetic field, voltage, temperature, and length."We're converting chemical energy into electrical energy. It's much like a fuel cell, but it's a very different concept fundamentally," explains Liu, a first-year graduate student in the lab of Professor Michael Strano. "In layman's terms, basically you are burning the chemical fuel, and there really isn't much of a way to create the oxidation reaction without the flame front; and all the interesting chemistry and all the thermal physics that is going on is embedded within the flame front, that is also called the reaction front.""I'm very lucky to be a part of the Strano research group for the summer," Gibbs says. "I want to further our understanding of these reaction waves, these thermopower waves, as much as I can in the nine weeks that I'm here and take with me the experience - the graduate school experience - of researching and implementing the lessons that you've learned from going through the literature."  Read more. 
    A fla acme travels across a fueled carbon nanofiber during an experiment in the Strano Lab.
    A flame travels across a fueled carbon nanofiber during an experiment in the Strano Lab. Summer Scholar Stephen Gibbs conducted one-dimensional thermopower wave experiments to measure the electric output of fueled carbon nanofibers.
    SMART Electronics Research
    Eugene Fitzgerald pursues new models for innovation in electronics as part of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.
    Eric Bender
    MIT Industrial Liaison Program 
    The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) has entered its eighth year of investigating new technologies that could serve Singapore and other future-looking cities. At the same time, this collaboration between MIT and the National Research Foundation of Singapore (NRF) is exploring new concepts in the process of R&D itself. SMART is not only better funded than most R&D projects; it's also distinct in its interdisciplinary and iterative approach to innovation.
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    About MPC

    The goals of the Materials Processing Center are to unite the materials research community at MIT and to enhance Institute-industry interactions. Collaboration on research ventures, technology transfer, continuing education of industry personnel, and communication among industrial and governmental entities are our priorities. The MPC 
    Industry Collegium is a major vehicle for this collaboration. The MPC sponsors seminars and workshops, as well as a summer internship for talented undergraduates from universities across the U.S. We encourage interdisciplinary research collaborations and provide funds management assistance to faculty.
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