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Nadrian Seeman Distinguished Speaker Series

Thursday      April 17, 2008           4:00pm              08-A-300                   College of Science


Nadrian C. Seeman

Department of Chemistry, New York University


"DNA: Not Merely the Secret of Life" Structural DNA Nanotechnology


Structural DNA nanotechnology uses reciprocal exchange between DNA double helices to produce branched DNA motifs. We combine branched motifs to produce specific structures, using sticky-ended cohesion. We have used this approach to make DNA stick-polyhedra, a variety of 2D DNA crystalline arrays and a number of sequence-dependent nanomechanical devices, such as a bipedal walker and a machine that translates DNA sequences into assembly instructions. The walker traverses a sidewalk in either direction as a consequence of the addition and removal of specific strands. The translation machine is based on a device that rotates one end relative to another by a half-turn; this device is also driven in a sequence-specific fashion by the addition and removal of specific strands. We have incorporated this device into a cassette that includes a domain to insert it into a 2D periodic array, along with a robotic arm that is reoriented by the motion of the device. By using atomic force microscopy, we are able to demonstrate that the device is active when it is inserted into the array, thereby laying the basis for a DNA-based nanorobotics. We can program the device to capture a specific shape while in an array. This research has been supported by grants from the NIGMS, NSF, ARO, NYNBIT and the W.M. Keck Foundation.

Nadrian C. Seeman was born in Chicago in 1945. Following a BS in biochemistry from the University of Chicago, he received his Ph.D. in biological crystallography from the University of Pittsburgh in 1970. His postdoctoral training, at Columbia and MIT, emphasized nucleic acid crystallography. He obtained his first independent position at SUNY/Albany, where his frustrations with the macromolecular crystallization experiment led him to the campus pub one day in the fall of 1980. There, he realized that the similarity between 6-arm DNA branched junctions and the flying fish in the periodic array of Escher's 'Depth' might lead to a rational approach to the organization of matter on the nanometer scale, particularly crystallization. Ever since, he has been trying to implement this approach and its spin-offs, such as nanorobotics and the organization of nanoelectronics; since 1988 he has worked at New York University. When told in the mid-1980's that he was doing nanotechnology, his response was similar to that of M. Jourdain, the title character of Moliere's Bourgeois Gentilehomme, who was delighted to discover that he had been speaking prose all his life. He has published over 220 papers, and has won the Sidhu Award, the Feynman Prize, the Emerging Technologies Award, the Tulip Award in DNA Computing the World Technology Network Award in Biotechnology and the Nichols Medal.