06 June 2013

Newly appointed top-researcher aims to pull simulated molecules

Sapere Aude 13

Electric current travels through molecules varyingly depending on how much molecules are pulled. Detailed knowledge of molecular conductivity is paramount, both when one wants to develop molecular electronics and when hoping to understand biological systems. Unfortunately, actually bending and pulling individual molecules to study them requires superhuman lab-abilities. Now, chemist Gemma Solomon has received a Sapere Aude grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF) that will enable her to develop a way of simulating the otherwise very complex process using a computer.

Experimental noise is a hard thing to fake

Solomon, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry, explains that several research groups are currently able to situate a single molecule between two electrodes and measure the amount of current passing through. The tough thing about simulating the experiment is that current is affected if a molecule is pulled or improperly situated.

"We will see variations and interference in our results, just as researchers in the laboratory would

Gemma Solomon

Associate Professor

Department of Chemistry

University of Copenhagen

-We need to simulate the experiment with more than just a stylistic concept of a perfectly situated molecule between two electrodes. Therefore we will see variations and interference in our results, just as researchers in the laboratory would,” says the professor.

Virtual molecular gymnastics

The aptly named title of Solomon’s research project is "Simulating Single-Molecule Pulling Experiments". The Danish Council for Independent Research is supporting the project with just over seven million DKK (900.000 Euro) That is sufficient funds for Solomon to recruit 3 new PhD students and a postdoc.

-The Sapere Aude grant offers my group fantastic support . With it, we can build upon what we have already accomplished and take it in new directions, says Gemma Solomon.

Slightly more Danish with Sapere Aude backing

Solomon was born and raised in Australia. After her studies in Australia and the United States, she moved to Denmark in 2010 together with her Danish born husband. She says that the Sapere Aude grant has made it a little more fun to be an immigrant.

-Starting out with one’s own research group is a big step and a bit of a daunting challenge. To do so in a new country doesn’t make things easier. To be a part of the Sapere Aude programme is a fantastic honour and this type of pat on the back makes it feel as if all the work and long days at the office were worth the effort. I am incredibly happy to work in Denmark and can now look forward to many more years here with exciting research and challenging projects,” concludes Solomon.

Programme designed to develop and retain young researchers

Sapere Aude and the Danish Council for Independent Research’s career programme aim to develop the abilities of the most gifted researchers, both nationally and internationally, and to create career paths and keep the most talented young researchers within research.