Piotr E. Marszalek

Professor in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

My research focuses on investigating relationships between structural and mechanical properties of biopolymers (polysaccharides, DNA, proteins), which I study at a single molecule level. My main approaches are experimental scanning probe microscopy techniques and computational methods involving Molecular Dynamics simulations and ab initio quantum mechanical calculations. The ultimate goal of this research is to understand the above-mentioned relationships at an atomic level and to apply the knowledge gained towards elucidating basic phenomena such as: molecular recognition that mediates interactions between proteins and sugars, mechanotransduction that underlies mechanical sensing and hearing in all organisms, and protein folding that is fundamental to all biology. Our DNA research is aimed at exploiting atomic force microscopy techniques to develop new ultra-sensitive assays for detecting and examining DNA damage, the process underlying carcinogenesis, and to increase our mechanistic understanding of DNA damage and repair processes. This research, in addition to its basic science aspects will lay a foundation for the future use of AFM technologies in the nanoscale DNA diagnostics with a potential to directly benefit human health.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 3387 Fciemas Building, Box 90300, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-5381
  • Email Address: pemar@duke.edu
  • Websites:

Education

  • M.S. University of Warsaw (Poland), 1985
  • Ph.D. Electrotechnical Institute (Poland), 1991

Research Interests

Investigating relationships between structural and mechanical properties of biopolymers (polysaccharides, DNA, proteins), at a single molecule level.

Courses Taught

  • BME 394: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • EGR 393: Research Projects in Engineering
  • ME 331L: Thermodynamics
  • ME 513: Nanobiomechanics

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Apostolidou, Dimitra, Pan Zhang, Devanshi Pandya, Kaden Bock, Qinglian Liu, Weitao Yang, and Piotr E. Marszalek. “Tandem repeats of highly bioluminescent NanoLuc are refolded noncanonically by the Hsp70 machinery.” Protein Sci 33, no. 2 (February 2024): e4895. https://doi.org/10.1002/pro.4895.
  • Kim, Samuel, Marcus V. J. Cathey, Brandon C. Bounds, Zackary Scholl, Piotr E. Marszalek, and Minkyu Kim. “Ligand-Mediated Mechanical Enhancement in Protein Complexes at Nano- and Macro-Scale.” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 16, no. 1 (January 2024): 272–80. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsami.3c14653.
  • Antosiewicz, Jan M., Robert Gilbert, and Piotr E. Marszalek. “Special Issue: 18th Congress of the Polish Biophysical Society.” European Biophysics Journal : EBJ 52, no. 6–7 (October 2023): 483–86. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00249-023-01688-3.
  • Apostolidou, Dimitra, Pan Zhang, Weitao Yang, and Piotr E. Marszalek. “Mechanical Unfolding and Refolding of NanoLuc via Single-Molecule Force Spectroscopy and Computer Simulations.” Biomacromolecules 23, no. 12 (December 2022): 5164–78. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.biomac.2c00997.
  • Marszalek, Piotr E. “Capturing intrinsic nanomechanics of allostery.” Biophysical Journal 121, no. 23 (December 2022): 4415–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2022.10.037.