Research Plan Teemu Murtola
Coarse Graining and Multiscale Modeling at the Interface of Physics and Biosciences
I graduated as Master of Science (Technology) in April 2004 from the
Degree programme of Engineering Physics at Helsinki University of
Technology (TKK), and started my graduate studies at TKK in July
2005. I am working in the Biological Physics and Soft Matter group in
the Laboratory of Physics at TKK, in which I also did my Master's
In my Master's Thesis, I investigated a systematic method to create
a coarse-grained model for a many-component lipid membrane.
The method is versatile and can be used to create extremely efficient
coarse-grained models that accurately reproduce results from atomic
level simulations. The method and the created model enabled us to
simulate nearly macroscopical membrane systems and thus to look at the
ordering effects induced by cholesterol. The observed phase behaviour
was in agreement with experimental data. The results obtained in the
Thesis were extremely promising and encourage further investigation
into the methodology.
Goals and research plan
My research focuses on coarse graining and multiscale simulations of
biomolecular systems. Developing coarse graining techniques and designing
coarse grained models for systems containing membranes, proteins, and/or
RNA is work in progress. Topics include complex lipid membranes such
as rafts, integral proteins such as mechanosensitive channels used as
biosensors, and lipoparticles used as carriers of cholesterol. The work is
multidisciplinary coupling fields such as physics, chemistry, and medical,
bio- and computational sciences. The research is done in collaboration
with the theoretical and experimental partners of our group.
The long-term goal is to produce a multiscale modeling framework
that can be used to study both small- and large-scale phenomena
in biologically relevant systems. This framework would contain
various coarse-grained models and novel tools for constructing
As a specific example of the research topics, consider lipid rafts.
There is experimental indication that lipid rafts affect the
functioning of proteins in the membrane, hence rafts, in part,
govern and regulate cellular functioning. While the understanding
of rafts over nano- and mesoscopic scales is scarce, the present
work can provide significant insight into, e.g., the role of
membranes in these processes and clarify the dependence of protein
functioning on membrane composition.
Implementation and networking
I am conducting the research in the Biological Physics and Soft
Matter group in the Laboratory of Physics at TKK. My instructor is
Prof. Ilpo Vattulainen. Of the collaborators involved in this work,
the most relevant one is Prof. Klaus Schulten's group at University of
Illinois at Urbana Champaign.