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01/31/14

The Theoretical Department is growing - Dr. Matthias Heyden starts as new group leader at the Kohlenforschung

The Theoretical Department is growing - Dr. Matthias Heyden starts as new group leader at the Kohlenforschung

Dr. Matthias Heyden, born in Düsseldorf, is a new group leader at the Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung in Mülheim an der Ruhr since January 2014. He studied at the Ruhr- University Bochum, received his doctoral degree with Martina Havenith and now works as a RESOLV junior research group leader in the Department of Theory. As a biochemist, he is particularly interested in the interface between living organisms and the molecular world of chemistry.

Mutual Influence between Proteins and their Environment

“We are looking at the mutual influence between proteins and their environment,” explains Matthias Heyden, who has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at UC Irvine in the United States for three years. “The most important part of this environment is often water, which constitutes 70 to 80% of our body weight.” Proteins need, in order to fulfill their function, a particular surrounding. To what extent, for example, are those proteins adapted to water as surrounding fluid? And how does this work? “I'm interested in the dynamics of proteins. How flexible are they, which movements take place at which time scales and how can that be influenced by the proteins environment?” says Matthias Heyden.
 
The processes within a cell fascinate him as well: “The inside of a cell is not like a test tube. There is an extremely high concentration of proteins and other molecules - there is not much space,” says Matthias Heyden. How, for example, do the spatial relationships influence the function and stability of the proteins?

Simulation Methods provide Insights accurately

Matthias Heyden investigates all this not in a laboratory but on the computer. As a theorist, he develops simulation methods by calculation. In that way he is able to describe the conditions in the cell as accurately as possible. This is important as all the chemical processes are much too small and happen much too quickly as one could see them with the naked eye and understand them directly. “A computer simulation can, like an extremely powerful microscope, provide insights into the molecular processes that underlie the experimental observations.” The comparison between simulation results and experimental data of several cooperative partners is therefore an essential part of Matthias Heyden’s work.

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For more information on the RESOLV program please check their homepage.