Simple physical mechanisms are behind the flow of energy in all forms of life. Energy comes to living systems through electrons occupying high-energy states, either from food (respiratory chains) or light (photosynthesis). Life's ability to transfer electrons over large distances with nearly zero loss of free energy is puzzling and has not been accomplished so far in synthetic systems. Ergodicity is often broken in protein-driven reactions and thermodynamic free energies become irrelevant. Breaking the grip of thermodynamics allows for an efficient optimization between the rates of individual reactions and the spectrum of relaxation times. Time, it appears, plays as significant a role as the free energy in optimizing biology's performance. Electrostatics and interfaces are at the heart of the physical mechanisms employed by biology to control the flow of energy at the molecular and mesoscale length-scales. Elasticity and charges combine in biological interfaces to both transfer signals and to direct chemical transformations.

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