Center for Bio-Inspired Nano-Materials

(Protein Cage Templates for Nanoscale Materials)
Montana State University

The use of protein cages for the synthesis and characterization of nano materials is a major new initiative here at Montana State University.  An interdisciplinary group has evolved at MSU, which includes faculty with expertise in chemistry (Trevor Douglas, David Singel, Mary Cloninger) molecular biology (Mark Young) and physics (Yves Idzerda).  In addition to individual PI funding, this group has been funded through the NIRT program at NSF.


Post-doctoral Positions Available!


The broad objective of this research effort is to establish an interdisciplinary research and training team focused on the directed synthesis of nanophase magnetic particulate materials.  The magnetic properties of these materials will be tailored by the size and composition of the particles, and by their assembly into mono- and multi-component two-dimensional ordered arrays.  The broad goals of this program are to create new magnetic materials whose component constituents are magnetic clusters that can be tightly tailored in size and magnetic composition, and whose mesoscopic magnetic properties (individual cluster moment, anisotropy, etc.) can be independently varied over a broad range.  Furthermore, through the use of appropriate interstitial material, the assembly of these magnetic building blocks into ordered two-dimensional arrays would allow for tunable and externally controllable inter-particle interactions that modify the macroscopic material properties for future application as superior performance magnetic memory, sensors, and ultra-high speed device architectures.  This synthesis and characterization program will elucidate correlations between physical and magnetic properties of the materials, and thus lay a foundation for chemical design of magnetism in nano-materials.




We are currently collaborating with other research groups in the use of protein cages for nanotechnology

Research Opportunities:
Post-doctoral reseach positions available in the following areas:

1) Thermophilic viruses The isolation and genetic characterization of novel viruses from extreme thermal environments found in Yellowstone National Park and other thermal regions worldwide. We are interested in the unique biochemical adaptations required for life at high temperatures. One avenue to elucidate such mechanisms is to use viruses that replicate in such environments as tools to understand their hosts. Currently, very little is known about the viruses that replicate at high temperatures.  Our efforts have been directed at the isolation and characterization of viruses that replicate in high temperature (>80ºC) acidic (<pH 3.0) environments using Yellowstone as our backyard laboratory.  To date, we have isolated a number of viruses, all of which have been completely novel in morphology and genetic structure. We continue to isolate new viruses from thermal environments worldwide.  We investigate the structure and gene functions of these novel viruses using the tools of molecular and structural biology.

2) Iron oxide mineralization in extreme thermophilic environments.  To investigate the use of protein cages (including ferritin, and viruses) for the size constrained synthesis/encapsulation of nanomaterials.  These 'materials' could include inorganic species such as transition metal oxides and organic species such as polymers and small organic molecules.  The opportunity exists for redesigning/engineering the native proteins to affect both the assembly and chemical reactivity, using both a chemical and genetic approach.

3) Inorganic Nanomaterials synthesis and characterization.  The position involves utilizing our library of protein cages (which differ in size, chemical functionality, and physical stability) for the synthesis of size constrained and compositionally controlled nanomaterials.  The protein cages include ferritin, ferritin-like proteins, and icosahedral viruses. The position will involve the synthesis and characterization of transition metal oxides and metallic nanoparticles encapsulated within these protein cages.  In addition, the project involves fabrication of these protein encapsulated nanoparticles into ordered 2 and 3-dimensional arrays.  Candidates should have experience in nanoparticle synthesis and characterization.

4) Organic Nanomaterials synthesis and characterization. The use of viral protein cages as constrained reaction vessels for nano-materials synthesis (hard and soft materials) with applications in medicine and material sciences. This research is based on the concept that viral protein cages (devoid of their nucleic acid) can serve as a precisely defined molecular surface for driving chemical reactions.  This area of research focuses on genetic and chemical modifications to impart desired functionality to viral protein cages on the interior surface, the exterior surface and at the interface between the subunits that comprise the cage.  A number of animal and plant viral protein cages, in addition to non-viral protein cages are being utilized. Applications of this work include creation of cage-based targeted drug delivery and MRI bio-imaging agents.

5) Protein encapsulated nanomaterials as photocatalysts.  To investigate the use of protein encapsulated transition metal oxide nanoparticles (such as Fe-oxides, Mn-oxides, Co-oxides) as photo catalysts for oxidation/reduction of environmentally relevant species (Cr(VI) >Cr(III), As (III) > As(V), U(VI) >U(IV)).

Initial appointments are for one year.  Applications will be reviewed until the positions are filled.
Interested candidates should send a letter of enquiry and CV to:

Prof. Trevor Douglas
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
108 Gaines Hall, Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717


Prof. Mark Young
Department of Plant Sciences
333 Ag. Biosciences Bldg
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717

Graduate Student positions are available in the following areas: