May 22, 2018
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Work on molecule-size motors nets UM physicist research prize

By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — University of Maine physics professor R. Dean Astumian has been named a recipient of a Humboldt Research Award, one of the most prestigious scientific honors in Germany.

Honorees receive a cash award of 60,000 euros (about $77,000) and are invited to conduct research in Germany. Astumian plans to spend the summer and next fall working at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich, Germany. The three scientists who nominated Astumian for the Humboldt all have laboratories at LMU.

Much of Astumian’s research focuses on Brownian motors, which are molecule-size machines that use diffusion as a mechanism for controlled motion at the nanoscale.

“The invitation to spend several months at LMU in one of the very best laboratories for single-molecule biophysics is extremely exciting,” Astumian said in a statement. “I am really looking forward to working hand-in-hand with experimentalists testing some of the theories on the function of biomolecular machines that I have proposed.”

Astumian has been recognized previously for his work on nanotechnology. In June 2005 he was invited to co-organize a Nobel symposium, “Controlling Motion at the Nanoscale,” and in 2007 he was asked to participate and speak at the Solvay conference “From Noncovalent Assemblies to Molecular Machines.” Astumian was a finalist for the Feynman prize for theoretical molecular nanotechnology in 2008.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation was established in Berlin 18 months after the death of Alexander von Humboldt in 1860. Steven Chu, who was President Obama’s pick as U.S. energy secretary, received a Humboldt in 1994 and three years later was named a Nobel Prize winner for physics.


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