Armour College of Engineering and CHBE Fall Seminar November 29, 2021

Please join the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering for the 2021 Fall Seminar featuring Ursula Perez-Salas, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

When: Monday, November 29, 2021, 12:45 pm – 1:45 pm
Where: Perlstein Hall 131 – Auditorium

“The Energetic Landscape of Lipid Homeostasis in Cell Membranes”

Ursula Perez-Salas is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Prior to her current role, she held a joint appointment at the UIC and Argonne National Laboratory. Her previous positions include Assistant Physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, Instrument Scientist in the Center for Neutron Research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Postdoctoral Researcher at the National Research Council. She completed her doctoral studies in Chemical Physics at the University of Maryland. She is the recipient of the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation.


Ursula will talk about structural and functional consequences of lipid organization in cell membranes is a grand challenge in biophysics. Lipids are molecules that love and hate water simultaneously and self-assemble into a lipid bilayer which is a universal structure of all cell membranes. The membrane’s hydrophobic interior is a 2-layer 3nm-thick film that separates the interior of the cells from the surrounding environment. In eukaryotic cells inner structures, like the nucleus, evolved to be bounded by membranes too. However, lipid function goes beyond a mere “confining barrier”; cells invest substantial resources in generating thousands of different lipids because these molecules are heavily involved in cell signaling functions. As a result, their location within the cell and even across a single membrane is critical for proper cell function. How costly is it for a cell to maintain these compositional differences? The answer to this question is explained in part by the thermally driven properties of lipids in membranes. In this talk I will present results from our ongoing efforts to map the energy landscape of lipid motion between distinct membranes and within a single membrane.