Why are we alive? The biological processes of life are a complicated interplay of physical mechanisms.

Our multidisciplinary approach to research explores methods of quantum physics and physical chemistry to study biological systems and processes. We are continually developing new tools to better understand how life works, by precisely probing the behaviour of single isolated biomolecules and bioparticles using optical and trapped ion techniques.


Associate Professor Erik Streed

My current bio-efforts focus on combining ion trapping with advanced microscopy to unravel structural questions about the dynamics of biomolecules. My work in quantum physics focuses on solving the problem of getting light into and out of quantum computers using an approach based on the segmented optics found in lighthouses.

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Our research

The folded shape of a biomolecule determines its functionality. Over the past few years, a major international effort in biophysics has been the prediction of a biomolecule’s folding from its chemical composition. The folding of DNA contributes to how genes are expressed. The misfolding of proteins is the underlying mechanism of degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Our work is developing an approach to controllably step through the folding process in single isolated biomolecules confined in an ion trap. This allows us to control the biomolecule’s surrounding environment with atomic precision.


Streed E, (2013), Unfolding Large Biomolecules, Proceedings of the 20th Australian Institute of Physics Congress.

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Contact the Centre for Quantum Dynamics