Title: Topological descriptions of protein folding
Speaker: Prof. Helen Wong, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Claremont-McKenna College.
Abstract: Knotting in proteins was once considered exceedingly rare. However, systematic analyses of solved protein structures over the last two decades have demonstrated the existence of many deeply knotted proteins, and researchers now hypothesize that the knotting presents some functional or evolutionary advantage for those proteins. Unfortunately, little is known about how proteins fold into knotted configurations. In this talk, we approach this problem from a theoretical point of view, using techniques from the mathematical study of shape: Topology. We’ll discuss the topological tools currently used to quantify the complexity and depth of knotting in proteins, and compare and contrast topological descriptions of proposed pathways for proteins to form knots.
Helen Wong is an Associate Professor of Mathematics in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Claremont McKenna College and an alumna of Pomona College. Her research is in low-dimensional quantum topology, and applications of topology to molecular biology and quantum computation. She is particularly interested in the relationship between quantum invariants and related constructions (especially the Kauffman bracket skein algebra of a surface) and non-quantum invariants from topology and hyperbolic geometry.