Research Fellows Directory
Dr David Glowacki
University of Bristol
Atoms and molecules are the building blocks of matter, and make up everything that surrounds us. Much of the mechanics driving the natural world occurs at the level of the atoms and molecules, in a realm that is invisible to our eyes. We are accustomed to imagining molecules as they are shown in textbooks, leading to a false impression that the molecular world is static. Nothing could be farther from the truth: the molecular world is in fact profoundly dynamic, with its atomic and molecular building blocks perpetually engaged in a tightly correlated dance that depends on how a molecule’s energy field interacts with that of its surroundings. It is for this reason that scientists are fond of quoting Richard Feynmann's famous statement that "all of biology can be explained by the wigglings and jigglings of atoms".
Understanding nature’s invisible dances – on the level of cells, molecules, atoms, and electrons – has profound impacts for our everyday lives, and allows us to make strides developing important technologies in areas like medicine, energy, and the environment. For example, cures for disease will come from understanding the dynamical dances that drug molecules undertake as they find their way amongst our cells. Understanding the molecular dances that plants have evolved to efficiently harvest energy from the sun will allow us develop new forms of green energy. The vibrational dance of a CO2 molecule might be invisible, but it’s the reason that CO2 is an effective greenhouse gas, leading to planetary phenomena like changing climate, melting ice, and rising sea levels.
My research is aimed at understanding the microscopic processes that guide molecular dances. This is a difficult task, owing to the complex molecular interactions that underpin life, but progress will ultimately allows us to predict, control, and design matter with atomic and molecular precision – helping us to tackle the environmental, energy, and health challenges facing our modern world.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)