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Semiflexible Polymers: Fundamental Theory and Applications in DNA Packaging


Spakowitz, Andrew James (2005) Semiflexible Polymers: Fundamental Theory and Applications in DNA Packaging. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/GGY2-SZ67.


Much is understood about the behavior of perfectly flexible and perfectly rigid polymer chains; however, many polymers, for example DNA, are somewhere in between these two limiting cases. Such polymers are termed semiflexible, and their molecular elasticity can play a significant role in single-chain behavior as well as contribute to collective effects. Using analytical theory and numerical methods, we address several problems that focus on the equilibrium and dynamic behavior of semiflexible polymers to gain a deeper understanding of their fundamental physics. We consider the equilibrium statistical behavior of semiflexible polymers under the influence of external fields, confinement, and the collective influence of a nematic liquid-crystal phase. We then turn to the dynamics of a deformed elastic thread, addressing instances of instability and the subsequent nonlinear relaxation. Once we establish an understanding of these physical effects, we discuss the role that they play in DNA packaging, specifically focusing on the role of twist in DNA packaging in chromatin and the formation of an ordered conformation within a viral capsid.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:biophysics; polymer physics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemical Engineering
Awards:Constantin G. Economou Memorial Prize, 2001.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Wang, Zhen-Gang
Thesis Committee:
  • Wang, Zhen-Gang (chair)
  • Tirrell, David A.
  • Brady, John F.
  • Pierce, Niles A.
  • Phillips, Robert B.
Defense Date:28 September 2004
Non-Caltech Author Email:ajspakow (AT)
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-11162004-120143
Persistent URL:
Spakowitz, Andrew James0000-0002-0585-1942
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:4584
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:16 Nov 2004
Last Modified:23 Jul 2020 21:59

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